Lane’s lawn in quarantine
April 10, 2021
Spring has finally sprung in Chicago. Slush covers the ground. Arid 40 degree temperatures thaw our frozen winter hearts. Nature is in partial bloom. Trees, like the ones that dot Lane’s campus, regain their lush complexion. Squirrels and birds have come out of hiding. Geese poop and eat indiscriminately. Lane’s lawn, of course, is in bloom, too.
These days, however, there are no students to enjoy it.
The lawn’s many plants do not stop growing because students are out of school. Therefore, upkeep is always a necessity. The company handling the lawn is Christy Webber Landscapes, “a full-service landscape provider offering design, construction, and maintenance programs to residential, commercial, and municipal clients throughout Chicago.”
In an email to The Champion, Christy Webber laid out their maintenance schedule.
“Christy Webber Landscapes provides landscape maintenance services at Lane Tech from April through November,” the email read. “The campus is serviced by a 4 person crew and professional landscape equipment… The crew is typically on site for 6 to 8 hours during the summer months and potentially two days for the spring and fall cleanups. The same crew has been working at the school for about three years. Their experience helps them be efficient especially when school is in session… tough to mow when students are trying to get to lunch.”
Servicing throughout the year consists of one visit for an “Initial Clean Up” in April, 14 visits for the “Summer Bi-Weekly Service” occurring May through October, and a visit for “Fall Clean Up” in November. These visits keep the lawn clean, and ensure it is usable for the students who spend so much of their time on it.
That is, of course, who primarily uses the lawn — students. They sit under the trees, lie in the grass and play in the field. These students tend not to be alone; generally, they are in groups. Small groups, large groups, enormous groups, any size in between. For groups, the lawn seems to be a boon.
“I would walk to Lane Tech from my house (roughly 5 miles) to meet on the lawn with my friends nearly every weekend,” Quinn Jones, Div. 456, wrote in response to a Champion survey asking about student memories of the lawn.
Valerie Nunez, Div. 260, shared a similar sentiment in responding to the survey: “I used to hang out with my friends on the lawn during my lunch periods on warm days. We would eat, chat, and play games. I sometimes even brought my volleyball.”
This communal aspect of the lawn has not changed, according to Ms. Vale, a teacher and Lane alum.
“The lawn has always been a place where people gather to enjoy themselves and to hang out with friends,” Vale said.
Regardless of era, the lawn has been a hub for Lane students to enjoy the campus, and one another.
“There were quite a few students who would gather in groups playing hacky sack, or, you know, tossing a ball during lunch periods, and also after school,” said Ms. Thompson, assistant principal and Lane alum. “We spent a lot of time at the building. And I feel like a lot of students still spend a lot of time at or around Lane Tech. ”
Now during the pandemic, these conditions have changed. Places that were once bustling with life are now desolate. The lawn is empty.
“It’s empty. Empty. At most, you’ll see people from the community walking their dogs. I’ve seen more runners from the community who just take laps around our campus,” Thompson said.
People still go — it is a public space, after all — but not nearly in the same numbers.
“I’ve seen that occasionally there are some small groups of people there. Maybe a family might take their own children there or there might be a couple of young adults hanging out, but it’s definitely not as populated,” Vale said.
Every discussion of the lawn seemed to focus very little on the actual features themselves. The grass, trees and geese were only ever mentioned in relation to the memories students carry with them.
“I’ve heard different people say this before — I think most recently, I might have heard Mr. Tennison say it — but a school without students, that’s not a school. It’s just a building. And I think it’s the same for the lawn,” Vale said. “It’s like part of their emotional development. It makes them feel good to be there. And I think that’s the sad part of it, that there aren’t any large groups.”