Student vaccination rate at ‘excellent place’

Comfort levels vary among students regarding current virus mitigations


Malcolm Taylor

RUNNING START. Members of the cross country team run a lap around Jackman Field at the first- day assembly Sept. 9. The rest of U-High’s fall sports teams joined in the pep rally. Even though the assembly was outdoors, students were required to wear masks.

Lucia Kouri, Editor-in-Chief

Mask-mandate, delta, breakthrough — words of summer 2021. As the fully in-person school year approached, one word in particular was on the mind of many people: vaccination. Though more than 98% of eligible Laboratory Schools students are vaccinated, many are beginning the school year with varying comfort levels about safety precautions.

In a letter sent to parents on Aug. 13, Interim Director David Magill outlined the COVID-19 expectations and precautions that will be taken this school year. The University of Chicago is not mandating vaccination for Lab students, but it is strongly encouraged for students 12 and older. In addition, all employees, vendors and volunteers are expected to get vaccinated unless they have received an authorized exemption.

Even though COVID-19 vaccinations are not required, nearly 99% of students eligible for vaccines were fully vaccinated by the first day of school, according to an additional email sent to parents Sept. 1. Nurse Mary Toledo-Treviño estimated a total of five to 10 high school students who are not fully vaccinated. These students will undergo weekly screening testing.

Principal Paul Beekmeyer stated that U-High is at an excellent place when it comes to vaccinations.

In line with mandates from the university and Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker, all students and adults are required to wear a mask while indoors, except while eating or drinking. When eating, vaccinated U-High students are expected to stay three feet apart, while unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students are required to stay six feet apart.

Especially since there is a Lab community that is not vaccinated — 12 and under — I think it’s the responsibility of high school students to be vaccinated.”

— Emma Baker

High vaccination rates are particularly crucial at a school with younger students who cannot yet get vaccinated, according to senior Emma Baker.

“As the pandemic has progressed, we’ve seen how lethal it is, and recently there’s been a lot of studies on how it affects adolescents,” Emma said. “Especially since there is a Lab community that is not vaccinated — 12 and under — I think it’s the responsibility of high school students to be vaccinated.”

Even with the high vaccination rate, senior Ben Sachs wondered the extent to which guidelines for these few unvaccinated students are being enforced.

“The one thing I do have an issue with is that I feel like it is not being necessarily controlled — like I don’t know that the unvaccinated people are actually sitting farther apart.”

Ninth grader Zarak Siddiqi said the guidelines could have been more strictly enforced in his classes, even with so few unvaccinated students. Specifically, he noticed the three-feet rule was not enforced in some cases.

On the other hand, junior Maile Nacu said the school’s high vaccination rates and safety precautions, such as the mask mandate, were enough to make her feel safe.

“I think the school’s being pretty cautious, even though they’re not requiring a vaccine,” Maile said. “Knowing that a lot of our school is
vaccinated, I think it’s a good thing to kind of move in the direction of going back to how we normally were, even though there are people who aren’t vaccinated.”

While the future is uncertain, Ms. Toledo-Treviño said that, for now, the low number of unvaccinated students is worth recognition.

“We can literally count it in two hands,” she said. “That’s phenomenal.”