I am the principal of St. Luke Parish School in River Forest. As the academic leader of this institution it is my primary mission to create and maintain a school environment that nurtures each child’s spiritual development and challenges the intellect of every young mind we educate. My work is filled with joy, but the high demands of this task require all of my attention to be focused on the life of our school. The crossing guard issue in River Forest has now turned my attention to the life of the village.
Part of what makes River Forest such a desirable place to raise a family is the availability of several excellent education options. Our village boasts many outstanding schools that are religious and secular, public and private. But excellence isn’t all we tout here in River Forest; we also value safety. Or do we?
When faced with the absence of a crossing guard, St. Luke’s teachers responded to the challenge by crossing all students, our own as well as those attending other schools, at the intersection of Lake Street and Ashland Avenue. Our teachers were happy to put forth this extra effort to ensure the safety of local children without the fanfare of a contract negotiation or engaging in a power struggle with the school’s administration. While I was impressed with our teachers’ sense of duty, I was not surprised by it because the spirit of personal responsibility and generosity defines the character of those who choose to work in our school.
The ever-vigilant Officer Fields of the River Forest police department saw our efforts and immediately drove over with a vest and stop sign in hand, ready to support St. Luke’s quiet and effective solution to the crossing guard shortage. Unfortunately, several days later the police were instructed to retrieve the vest as it is property of the village and the local school district.
The St. Luke solution to this safety issue protects all children crossing at Lake and Ashland, not only our own students, as well as decreases the risk of liability to drivers and to the village itself. This example of our collegial attitude and strong sense of community service is part of why St. Luke and River Forest have enjoyed such a strong friendship, one that dates back to our deepest roots in 1887. St. Luke always strives to be a good neighbor.
St. Luke parents invest in tuition in addition to paying the high property taxes that support District 90 schools. The high property value of our local housing market is based upon the shared asset of our excellent public schools and our outstanding private school alternatives. If all the St. Luke students within District 90 were to flood the local school system, it would create a crippling shortage of space and resources and would do so at a staggering cost of $1,682,064. This figure stands in stark contrast to the price of an orange safety vest, which is about $10. If our children’s safety is indeed a village value, I wonder why this price, a cost drawn from River Forest’s own taxpaying families, seemed too high.
I hope that this episode is mere error that will not mar an otherwise unblemished history of fellowship and cooperation among the public schools, private schools and the village of River Forest.
Barbara Rasinski is the principal of St. Luke Parish School at 519 Ashland Ave. in River Forest.