School announces optional masking after spring break


Matt Petres

Juniors David Wolf and Sohan Manek eat lunch without masks. After spring break masks will be optional throughout the entire school.

Téa Tamburo, Deputy Managing Editor

Starting March 21, mask wearing will be optional for Lab community members and guests ages 5 and older, according to a March 5 email from Director Tori Jueds. While mask-wearing will be optional, individuals must bring a mask to campus in case it’s needed. 

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, or are identified as close contacts, are required to wear a mask for 6-10 days. If Lab experiences a COVID-19 outbreak, those affected will be required to wear a mask. 

This change follows an update from the Chicago Department of Public Health on March 3. Community members can choose whether to wear a medical-grade or cloth mask, face shield or no face covering in indoor and outdoor settings. 

The school email was sent on a Saturday, hours before the Spring Fling dance, which was allowed as a trial of the new policy — the first time students and teachers could opt to not wear a face covering since the start of the pandemic. 

“I wondered if we’re opening ourselves up for a mass spread of COVID,” English teacher Ian Taylor said about the updated policy. “I know we are vaccinated to the gills and that there are fewer cases, but I don’t know. I guess a little bit of ambivalence.” 

“I was super surprised,” Saul Arnow, Cultural Union president, said about reading the email. “I’d heard rumblings about it, but I didn’t realize how quickly it was coming. It did feel like a first step to going back to normal, which was cool.” 

According to Saul, who planned and attended the dance, about half the students there choose to wear masks.

“It was pretty even, about 50:50 or so,” Saul said. “ It seemed like when people were dancing, they were more likely to have their masks off, but it was a pretty even split.”

Mr. Taylor attended the dance as a chaperone and observed students both with and without masks.  

“I wore my mask most of the time,” he said. “I thought there might be a minority of students who are still not quite ready, so I kind of kept my mask on for that reason.”

While mask-wearing policies are changing, SHIELD testing will remain available for those unvaccinated or identified as close contacts. Rapid antigen test kits will also be distributed to community members before spring break. 

“I want to be optimistic about it but we’ll see about the covid,” Saul said, regarding Lab’s new COVID-19 mitigation strategies. “I feel like it can go to where it was or it can end up being a great thing, where people don’t have to wear their masks and Covid doesn’t spread.”