Junior retreat experiences spark worry over COVID-19 cases


Matt Petres

Juniors gather around each other during an entire grade session at retreat. Some students were worried about contracting COVID-19 on retreat given that mask wearing was optional and several juniors were deemed close contacts.

Sahana Unni, Content Manager

The return to an in-person junior retreat March 30 to April 1 in southern Wisconsin included an unexpected turn of events when several students were informed they were close contacts of individuals who contracted COVID-19. During the week of March 28, the Laboratory Schools had 14 confirmed cases and 262 students and employees identified as close contacts. With the number of COVID-19 cases on a slow, but steady rise in Illinois, some students have opted to resume wearing a mask. 

Prior to attending junior retreat, all students were required to participate in SHIELD testing. Apart from the bus to and from Camp Lake, Wisconsin, masks were optional for the duration of the retreat. 

“We had everyone do a SHIELD test in advance, so everyone who was scheduled to attend the retreat was cleared to attend the retreat,” Dean of Students Ana Campos said. “We did what we could to try to help people to feel confident that we have taken all the right measures and we followed the science.” 

Junior Lauren Tapper has seen concern about an increase in COVID-19 cases but believes U-High is taking the proper precautions to keep students safe. 

“I think everyone is accepting that it’s really up to that individual if they feel comfortable to take off their mask or not,” Lauren said. “Yes, there is some anxiety among certain people, but they are able to take the precautions without any consequences or negative feedback from their peers.” 

Senior Amanda O’Donnell thinks there should be SHIELD testing after events like junior retreat, but otherwise feels that U-High is in a good place. 

“I’m definitely still concerned about COVID, so I’m taking measures to try to prevent getting sick,” Amanda said. “I’m still wearing my mask, washing my hands, et cetera, but we’ve been in school when there’s been a lot of covid cases before, so I think as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, protecting myself and others.”

High school nurse Mary Toledo-Treviño wants students to know that she is available to respond to any questions, concerns or hesitancies about COVID-19. 

“It is really important for students to listen to their bodies, and if they’re symptomatic to please stay home and to test themselves,” Ms. Toledo-Treviño said. “That way it helps to keep the community healthier. We all depend on each other and students doing their part helps.”