Students swarm back to Lane as COVID-19 cases tick up around city


Mara Mellits

Sophomores walk the halls of Lane on Aug. 24 as part of Myrtle & Gold Week, an event to familiarize sophomores with Lane.

By Alex Burstein, Editor-in-Chief

Mornings of waking up at 7:55 a.m. and walking to a computer for online classes are no more for Lane students.

After a year of remote learning, Lane students are faced with something they haven’t in over 15 months — five days a week of in-person learning.

While students may be transitioning from virtual to in-person learning, the backdrop remains the same — COVID cases city-wide now reaching highs not seen in months with the new Delta variant. The City of Chicago COVID-19 tracker reported a daily average of 473 cases today, over 400 higher than it was nearly two months ago, on June 27.

Precautions will be of utmost importance for the Lane administration as they welcome back over 4,000 students to the building.

“There’s no more stickers on the floors or anything like that,” Assistant Principal Sarah Hanly said. “But we are going to rely on the students to follow the safety protocols. We’re going to rely on you guys to make sure you’re wearing your masks, to make sure that you’re using hand sanitizer, to make sure that when you can, to socially distance, to make very smart decisions around health and especially, if you’re not feeling well, you don’t come to the building because that way we do whatever we can to maintain our health protocols.”

Sophomore Class President Sean Groh, Div. 479, acknowledges the health risks of returning, as well as the social situation.

“I attended a back-to-school Student Council meeting with all three Student Councils and Vice Principal Hanly, and the Student Council administrators. We talked about how we need to make Lane a more welcoming environment than it’s ever been due to COVID shutting everything down. This year I hope we can incorporate more school spirit.”

The 2021-22 school year will start in a unique position — with three classes (class of 2027, 2025 and 2024) all having students who have never gone to school in-person. But, through orientations and events, the school has been trying to familiarize new students with Lane’s campus prior to Aug. 30.

“There is a sophomore Myrtle and Gold week. It’s basically a three day event where students will come into the building and meet people and do some fun activities, icebreakers, get to know people around [the school] so that way students can cruise in knowing people for the beginning of the 2021 to 2022 school year,” Hanly said.

Even as the school prepares full speed ahead for a return, worries remain on a full return.

“I do have my worries,” Groh said. “COVID is spiking. I feel like CPS needs to step up and do a better job when it comes to COVID precautions, especially with a school of 4000 at Lane Tech. With the 4000 students, Lane definitely needs to show some precaution and increase enforcement and restrictions on social distancing. [They need to] make sure people are social distancing, wearing masks.”

Hanly agrees there are concerns about the return, but acknowledges that compared to other places, there’s no increased risk at school.

“Of course there’s going to be concerns as there would be just going out and walking down the street I mean or walking into a restaurant or into a grocery store,” Hanly said. “[But], I don’t think we’re any more worried because we’re a school.”

Additionally, with students being eligible for vaccines, Hanly says the school’s hope is that Lane students have been vaccinated. Lane staff is required to get the vaccine by Oct. 15 or else face mandatory testing.

Despite COVID concerns and not having guidance from the district on how to handle things like I-Days and performances, Hanly said, the school is establishing some normalcy by moving forward with certain popular student events, like the Pep Rally and Homecoming.

“We are having Homecoming,” Hanly said. “Pep Rally is always outside and so that always helps. That will be masked. We’re coming up with some creative solutions around Homecoming for beyond the Pep Rally and the game because there’s limitations to what we can do with some of this, but we’re working on stuff that we hope will make people happy.”

Though specifics on things like events and social distancing remain skim, Hanly said the Lane staff is more than ready for students to return.

“I don’t think there’s any staff member here who is dreading you all coming back,” Hanly said. “Everybody is dying for our students to come back, I mean we are thrilled.”