Students at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School had a lot to look forward to this week. There was the eighth-grade dance on Friday evening, followed by a class field trip to Great America and graduation next week.
Instead, they were coping with the sudden, tragic death of classmate Kaylah Lentine, 14, who was hit by a pickup truck and severely injured while walking to school on Thursday morning.
The school was still in “waiting, hoping and praying” mode as Kaylah lay in intensive care at Advocate Christ Medical Center on Friday morning. OLHMS principal Paul Enderle said that Kaylah’s family was aware of the community’s concern.
During the morning, Enderle and counselors from Dist. 123’s five elementary schools went to every classroom in the middle school, offering support to students.
“We wanted to give students an accurate picture of what happened,” the principal said. “We reinforced to them the fact that we are a community and what impacts one person impacts us all.”
Students were also refreshed on the school district’s safety procedures and the importance of paying attention to crossing guards and following safety rules. The eighth-grade student who lives in Hometown, was believed to have missed the school bus and was walking to school, which was holding an awards assembly on Thursday morning.
Oak Lawn police were said to have identified Kaylah by her school ID, which was found at the accident scene at intersection of 93rd Street/Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue.
The principal and counselors talked to separately to the eighth-grade class on Friday morning, passing a school yearbook for each student to sign. The students were to have given the yearbook to Kaylah.
“What we conveyed to them was consistent with what was reported by Patch,” Enderle said. “We know the emergency response was quick and that she was immediately in the hands of doctors.”
Students were busy making get-well cards and posters for their injured classmate’s recovery, but it wasn’t to be.
Kaylah died at 3:26 p.m. Friday from injuries she sustained being hurled airborne and landing 60 feet away from where she had been struck in the crosswalk on the other side of Cicero Avenue, according to witnesses.
A representative from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said the girl had been declared brain dead.
Given the timing, Enderle and district officials sent out an email to parents in the late afternoon, informing them of Kaylah’s passing and the cancelation of Friday’s eighth-grade dance.
Dist. 123 spokesman Ben Grey said that more messages from the school would be forthcoming over the Memorial Day weekend. The school is deciding how to acknowledge Kaylah’s passing at the May 30 eighth-grade graduation ceremony.
Grief counselors will also be on hand to console students when they return to school on Tuesday.
Kaylah’s friends, some of whom wore jeans and yellow sweaters to school on Friday in a show of support, have set up a Facebook page in Kaylah’s memory.
Her friend Hanna best summed up the community’s sense of loss in a comment left on Patch: “Kaylah we had the best times together I'm going to cry myself to sleep. I understand you are in a better place. Please look out for me up there. Someday we will be reunited.”
On Friday, all of Oak Lawn and Hometown cried itself to sleep.