OPRF hosts public hearing on closed campus

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

(Courtesy Oak Park and River Forest High School)

     The District 200 Board of Education will host a public hearing during a Wednesday May 4 special board meeting to take place in OPRF's auditorium. It is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The board will accept public comment about the issue of closing campus during the lunch periods. Current sophomores, juniors and seniors are allowed to leave campus during their assigned lunch period. Freshmen are required to remain on campus for lunch. The administration is exploring changing current practice.


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More than the drug issue from OP  

Posted: May 2nd, 2011 11:45 PM

It is widely agreed that closing the campus will not alone solve the drug/alcohol issue. However, it may curtail young freshman (yes, freshman do leave for lunch - just ask!) or sophomores from experimenting during the 48 minutes they're off campus. Equally important is security and liability. Anyone can go in and out of OPRF with the numerous unlocked doors. IDs aren't working. The school is liable for students from arrival to return home. Who tracks students leaving for lunch? Think about it.

OP Mom  

Posted: May 2nd, 2011 2:32 PM

What is the message we send to students when we tell them that leaving campus is a "privilege" to be earned? "Being in school is a punishment." And what does it mean when OPRF says keeping students on campus at lunch will lead to behavior problems? "Students are "locked up" to learn and must be released to let off steam and spending free time together at school is too volatile to require."

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2011 1:47 PM

My bad on the numbers. I was looking at students who reported using drugs at school. 24% of seniors being high at school, could be coming to school that way from home, but I agree, it is a frightening statistic. Also disturbing to me are the 12th grade numbers on binge drinking (39%), and driving with a DUI kid (47%), or DUI adult (29%!!!). Closing the campus will not address any of these issues, and in fact, will only serve to alienate the kids that we would like to help.

Roma Steinke from River Forest  

Posted: April 30th, 2011 2:50 PM

@ Ruth,I wish that "over 90% of the students at OPRF are not using drugs or alcohol at school" But that is just not the case. In the Illinois Youth Survey 2010. 8% of OPRF's seniors self reported drinking alcohol on campus and 10% reported using marijuana on campus but the most shocking number was 24% reported being drunk or high on campus.I agree close campus won't stop teens from drinking but it may reduce these numbers. OPRFHS's BOE should at the very least give it a try.

Huskie Mom from Oak park  

Posted: April 28th, 2011 11:41 PM

@OPRF Grad- well said and so true.Does anyone know how many students actually leave the buildinng for lunch? My son a current junior brings a bag lunch to school and eats in the cafe.On occasion he will go to subway, starbucks or come home.

Ruth from Oak park  

Posted: April 28th, 2011 10:53 PM

I feel obligated to add that elementary school students are able to leave school at lunchtime.

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: April 28th, 2011 10:51 PM

Maybe it's obvious to you Mr. C., but to me it is just as obvious that it is a very good idea for these students to have the opportunity to leave the building during the school day, and that it is a ridiculous waste of time/money/energy to close the campus. These students are not five years old, many of them can drive, vote, join the military, but we don't want them to go out to lunch? Really? If we are truly interested in addressing the drug problem, this is not the way to do it.

Mr. Cotter from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 11:02 PM

Ms. Ruth, et al, while I'll agree that most kids @ OPRF aren't using drugs/alcohol, they work hard, etc, it still for me blurs the fundamental question...Is it a good idea for 2000 students to be allowed to leave the school building during the school day? The obvious answer is no. Again, the open campus provides no educational value whatsoever. Sure, you can include students in a discussion (wonder how they'll respond?) but it's the adults who ultimately have to decide. Close the campus already.


Posted: April 27th, 2011 8:39 PM

Alberg, do you honestly think that these "dope peddlers" are coming in and ruining these kids' lives? Are you that naive? The kids doing drugs know where to go to get the drugs and don't need anyone to come in and peddle to them. They can get drugs from the kid whose locker is next to theirs--who's probably an honor student. They get alcohol at home or have someone buy it for them. All of this "closed campus" nonsense is a bandaid for the real problem. And LT and HC have problems too.

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 7:10 PM

Mr. Cotter, YOU may see your methods as showing respect to 15-18 year olds, but I disagree. "Unleashing" is a term generally used for dogs, and even though I'm a dog lover I have to ask if that is really what you think of our kids? Over 90% of the students at OPRF are not using drugs or alcohol at school, most of them are working very hard, and they are deserving of our respect. The least we could do is include them in these conversations in a meaningful way, but that has not been done because we are not interested in listening to what they have to say. Very disrespectful.

Mr. Cotter from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 1:44 PM

Ruth, you treat 15-18 yr olds with respect by educating them. Next, you give them the gift of high expectations. Keeping them inside a school building for an extra 40 minutes a day is somehow disrespecting them? Are you kidding? Teens get respect by first earning it, and also by devloping self-respect. None of which comes by unleashing them into the community during lunch time. The open campus is a bad 70's relic, like disco balls and platform shoes. Ugly then, worse now.

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2011 10:45 PM

What is the educational value of treating young people, age 15-18, with respect?

OP Resident  

Posted: April 26th, 2011 9:38 PM

@Mr. Cotter: We could say what is the educational value of many things -- perhaps recess for elementary students? Or maybe study hall at the high school because how many students really study in study hall? The administration is using the drug/alcohol issue as the reason they are closing the campus so as much as you might want to remove it from the argument, the adm. put it right on top of the list of why to close campus.

Mr. Cotter from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2011 8:48 PM

Let's leave the drug/alcohol issue out of this discussion for now. The question is, what is the educational value of an open campus? The easy answer is that there is none...that's right...NO EDUCATIONAL VALUE WHATSOEVER! It's a failed relic of the '70's...like me! The fact that maybe some kids would be less likely to do drugs, hang out in the parks, trash the neighbors yards, etc. is simply a bonus. Just close it...

Closed Campus: why do other schools do it? from RF Parent  

Posted: April 24th, 2011 10:31 PM

Closing campus stops drug use? Al says no. And lots of others agree. I agree, too. But why do kids get to skip study hall and go drink/smoke? And why can't we just focus more attention on kids who get in trouble? It seems that some on the BOE are afraid to expel the kids who break rules. Too bad bc they will never learn to behave if you don't have any consequences.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 23rd, 2011 9:19 PM

Alberg, I think you proved the point of the "keep the campus open" group. Students are doing drugs ON SCHOOL PROPERTY and WHILE AT SCHOOL. That has nothing to do with an open campus. The drug problem is huge, no one is doubting that, but this "solution" is a band-aid and it's embarrassing that the administration is touting this idea to the community as the answer.

Alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2011 5:48 PM

We can't solve the drug problem in OP & RF by closing the campus, but we can put a dent in it! What we're doing now is not working!!! It wasn't working in 2006, or '08 - it isn't working now! An easy way to start the program is to shorten lunch periods to 25 min. like Lyons, Glenbard West & many other schools do. Eliminate 23 min. of idle time for each student to get in trouble. Eliminate over an hour of prime selling time every day for dope peddlers to ruin our kids lives! And beef up security before and after school to further discourage dealing in the area. An Open Campus isn't a right for OPRF students any more than it is for the vast majority of other suburban high schoolers. If we want it to be a privilege, let seniors EARN the right to leave the Campus with Honor Roll grades, good discipline records, etc. Try closing the campus for the next 4 years, starting in Sept. & measure the effect. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is NOT GOING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Trying something new can't hurt - - and it might just work!

Alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2011 5:44 PM

11 of 14 W. Sub Conference schools have a Closed Campus. In a 2010 Illinois Youth Survey, 41% of OPRF seniors admitted to drug abuse in the previous 30 days. 41% of 3,200 = 1,300 students. 300 seniors "used" ON SCHOOL PROPERTY. 750 were drunk or high AT SCHOOL. These stats are about the same as in the 2006 and '08 studies. This is NOT a small problem affecting a few students! THIS SHOULD NOT BE ACCEPTABLE!!! Yet, nothing is being done about it.

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2011 11:44 AM

@Katherine: Is it possible that kids get in cars to go to friends' houses at lunchtime to EAT LUNCH? I believe that there are drug problems, but it's a minority of the student population using drugs at lunchtime, and the school should address those kids first! I don't understand why the security can chase kids in the neighborhood who are cutting the spirit assemblies, but they can't go to the alleys at lunchtime?

Al from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2011 7:46 AM

I'm a 26 yr old grad of Oak Park so I don't have any children attending the HS right now nor but I do find it incredibly laughable that parents and D200 thinks that by closing the campus and holding parent and student "cafes", meetings, and seminars that they will be able to combat the drug/alcohol problem. Do I have a suggestion of what will work? No. But I can tell you that these are not the answers.

Michael Riordan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 5:08 PM

I see this as yet another heavy handed solution from the administration. Rather than dealing with the smaller percentage of kids who are causing the problems they enact policies that affect all students. Same as the policy to have all students locked out of classrooms if they are late for class. Deal with the truants, don't punish everyone.You have specific kids causing problems, exercise authority over them first. Is expulsion no longer an option?


Posted: April 22nd, 2011 10:01 AM

Do you really think closing campus is going to keep kids from drinking/doing drugs? We went to my house for lunch and ate with my mom every day, but if we wanted to skip study hall at the end of the day and go drinking, we did. My friends and I all had good grades, and weren't hanging out on the streets by the high school. This has been going on for years; until the culture changes in OP & RF, nothing will help.

Katherine from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 11:46 PM

I cringe every time I see a car party (even in a BMW!) find drug baggies in the neighborhood (I'll bring samples to the forum) or hear a kid say "Who's house are we going to?" as they hop in a car at lunch. As a OPRF parent AND neighbor, I want to ensure students are MORE LIKELY to be on time, sober, ready to learn when the bell rings.


Posted: April 21st, 2011 10:41 PM

Closed campus will reduce (not end) drug use, everyone knows this - end of story.

Another OPRF Parent  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 7:40 PM

(cont) That is why those schools closed campus -- no kids driving frantically to get back on time. Our students walk down to Oak Park Avenue or walk home. I don't see that we need to close the campus. We need to work on what the problems are. This is a band-aid that solves nothing but making some homeowners happy.

Another OPRF Parent  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 7:39 PM

I totally disagree with closing the campus. It does not solve the drug issue whatsoever. The students who are using drugs will a) find another way to get out of the building or b) use drugs in the school (if they don't already). How about our security jobs do more to secure the building. How about the security guards not allowing the students to linger on neighbors' lawns, etc. We can't compare to the other schools referenced here. Students in those schools have to drive to go anywhere

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 6:54 PM

cont.- I know that you and the other parents involved with these recommendations care about the kids, but please respect that not everyone in this community shares your perspective, and the BOE has a difficult job trying to sort this out. In the recent election, the candidates who showed the most support for your recommendations were not elected. How come you got to write such a long message?

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 6:52 PM

Monica, your statements imply that high school student drug use is primarily the result of peer pressure and lack of maturity, but the reasons for drug use and abuse are so much more complicated than that. Closing the campus will not address this, and I tend to see interventions that don't get at the real causes for problems as worse than no interventions at all. Any intervention that doesn't actively involve the students we are trying to help is also doomed to failure.

Monica Rogers Sheehan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 6:23 PM

Open campus is a failed policy today, and it was a failed policy when it was introduced in 1971. The Board of Education (BOE) implemented it to help with scheduling during lunchtime when the school had nearly 4400 students, 1200 more students than today. Open campus is not a student-centric policy. It holds no academic benefit, and in fact, it negatively impacts student achievement. Moreover, it creates safety issues both inside and outside the building. Many high school students don't have the maturity to navigate the freedom of open campus, and they are vulnerable to peer pressure. Open campus gives students the unnecessary opportunity to make dangerous choices during the school day and puts them at-risk for undesirable consequences. Look around. Virtually every other high school has a closed campus. OPRFHS's open campus is an ill-conceived idea from the '70s that should have gone the way of other trends of the decade. The BOE has hired an excellent administration. The BOE needs to support it with policies, and drug and alcohol deterrents so OPRFHS can regain its stature as a school for "those things that are best". Close the campus!


Posted: April 21st, 2011 3:15 PM

Here is an idea, the children that have a problem behaving during the lunch period can have their parents come pick them up for lunch. The high school is not a babysitting institution as much as people think it is. Education goes so much further than the small amount of time allowed for lunch, if they want to go out let them. To all the neighbors, if you don't like it MOVE! Stop complaining, you knew what you were getting into when you moved in. Oak Park= Joke

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 5:21 PM

My high school campus was closed my senior year 20 years ago. I remember being really upset by it. My adult self things the adults at that time made the right decision. Even me, "student leader not at all suspected by the adults to be someone getting into trouble during lunch" was getting into trouble during lunch. It didn't kill me to stay in and didn't impact my college experience. It did keep me and my friends more focused on what we were there for - learning. Close the campus.

Class of 73  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 5:08 PM

I remember when the campus was first opened at lunch time. As a student, it wasn't such a big deal and most of us rarely left during lunch. I did like having the freedom of no more study halls and being able to choose where to go in the building during free periods. One of the cafeterias was always open as was the library, student center and outside mall along East Avenue. Hard to believe it was OK for students to smoke out there. No need to light up in the washrooms. Based on my experience, dated as it is, the administration can set the rules so that students can experience a sense of freedom while remaining inside the building.


Posted: April 20th, 2011 4:43 PM

This is an old issue, came up about 10 years ago, same problems, neighbors, drug use during lunch, etc. The students don't need an open campus to learn how to be responsible with their freedom, they can learn that by doing their homework on their own, how they use their time on the weekends & the choices they make then. What is needed is alot more respect & consideration for the neighbors around the school, other patrons at the library, other people in Scoville Park, other patrons at Tasty Dog

OPRF Parent  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 3:09 PM

The answer is hardly clear. Yes, the kids at all of those schools are locked in. I would agree that middle school children shouldnt be allowed to leave campus but they are much younger. OPRF has always had a standard of respecting students, treating them like adults, and giving them freedom. Also what will happen to these kids when they reach college and have 100% freedom? At least if we give them the freedom little by little now they learn how to use it and respect it!

Oak Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 12:38 PM

Just how many meetings, conferences and committees is it going to take to get this accomplished? The recommendation came down nearly a year ago to close this campus at lunch time. With all due respect to OPRF Parent, it is not a simple matter to close all but one entrance/exit to the school, take I.D.'s, put in more patrols - who's paying for that by the way? It's not merely a matter of loitering and littering. Seriously, why is this even an issue? The answer is clear - Close the Campus

OPRF parent  

Posted: April 19th, 2011 10:55 PM

This is not a safety issue, it is a neighbors complaining about kids in their neighborhood issue. You bought a house by a high school, deal with it. OPRFHS administrators need to deal with it better too. Monitor who goes in or out. Have them exit by one exit only. Take their ID when they leave so they know who they are dealing with. Have them sign in and out. How hard is that?

Different view from a OPRF Parent.   

Posted: April 19th, 2011 4:46 PM

@ OPRF Parent. "Lock the Students in" Are the students at Julian, Brooks and Roosevelt locked in? How about the students at New Trier, Evanston, Highland Park are they locked in? The number of schools that have closed their campus in the last decade is staggering. These school all made the tough and unpopular decision to close campus. It is time to make safety for our teens a priority and not their lunch hour spent at Tasty Dog.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: April 19th, 2011 12:36 PM

So Sheila, your plan is to lock the students in so that the community doesnt see the problems? The students who use drugs during the lunch hour WILL NOT CARE if the school says you cant! They will either A) Stop coming to school period or B) Find a way out of the building... I would agree to a plan to have security guards walking around the area (like they do for football games) controlling the students and ensuring that all "off campus" behavior is appropriate!

Sheila Carson from RF  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 5:54 PM

OPRFHS's open campus is an anomaly today. We are one of 2 schools in our conference with an open campus. This is a question of safety for students because open campus serves no academic purposes. Years ago a child was in a motorcycle accident during lunch, and more recently, we have lots of loitering, littering and lighting up (and more)near the school that have brought this to a point of serious consideration. Keeping the campus closed would also likely make it less appealing to trespassers.

Dan Joines from Oak PArk  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 11:08 AM

I will attend. To answer Sarah...seeing as the campus was closed until about 1970, when the school had at least 500 more students than it does today, the answer is yes the school can handle it. The question is will the will of the community supercede the will of a)students who'll likely object, b) some parents who foolishly think closing campus would stifle creativity, c) school staff who'd have to better monitor who's in the building..

localop_sarah from oak park   

Posted: April 16th, 2011 7:46 PM

The previous articles have talked about this as a solution to drug use problems with high school students. Either way - I'm interested to even see if the school could handle being a closed campus. I was wondering what capacity was in the lunch rooms? I can't make the meeting either though.

Michael Riordan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2011 6:27 PM

I won't be able to attend this public hearing, but I am very interested in learning more about this issue. My understanding is that a complaint has come up because some students loiter and litter in front of the homes across the street from the high school. Can someone verify for me if this is the whole of the issue or are there other considerations?

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