New Covid Policies: A Positive Trend


Richard Zhang and Max Ma

Since the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 has fundamentally altered policies and physical accommodations at Lake Forest Academy. Although LFA’s learning environment returned to relative normalcy this year, the school year still started with short-term Covid protocols, focused on dining, boarding, and athletic life. On September 26, these short-term Covid policies had a major update that represented a huge step forward towards a sense of normalcy. 

Updates in Covid policy include: full capacity vans for athletic transportation and weekend activities,  opportunities for Spring Break trips, no limitation on the capacity for taxi and student-driven cars, no restriction on boarding students signing out to indoor dining, indoor malls, and movie theaters. John Freeman, Director of Residential Life and Assistant Dean of Students, talked about these new boarding developments, “It’s great to have the vans back at full capacity, since we can take twice the number of students on trips and now there’s less waiting for something like a Target run. It also opens up space for more van runs during that Sunday timeslot.” Freeman also said, “Another great development is that we can now also open up trips to farther locations, such as Michigan Avenue or a Chicago Sky game, because it would have been unfeasible with just four or seven people in a van going to Chicago. The updated Covid policies have helped us offer events at the places we used to, and has really gotten the boarding community excited to check the weekend schedule each week.” 

This advancement was accomplished due to the success of the vaccination rollout. According to Anna Kliner, Director of Health Services, the LFA vaccination rate has reached a 97% boarding student vaccination rate and a 94% entire-school vaccination rate as of September 29th. This high boarding student vaccination rate serves as an extra layer of protection and gives the school an opportunity to offer more freedom in the residential life. “So we feel that as long as people continue to layer other protective measures such as wearing their masks in transportation, the risk doesn’t outweigh the benefit of being able to increase activity options, given that we have such a strong vaccination rate within our internal community.” In addition, one of the reasons that we didn’t have full transportation capacity last year is because of the six-foot distance. “Given that everybody isn’t fully vaccinated, if there was a positive case anywhere on the van, anyone within the six-foot radius of that person would have been considered a close contact. This year, because everyone has the opportunity to become vaccinated, we feel that now is kind of a more level playing field, and we are more able to extend those options to people.”

However, even though the community has reached such a high vaccination rate, some baseline protection strategies including maintaining distance, masking indoors and on buses, and limiting contact with sick people still remain. Masking policies still remain in campus buildings because of Governor Prtizker’s executive order 2021-20, which dictates that people need to be masked in all public spaces, including schools. According to Kliner, “as long as that’s in place, our hands are tight in terms of changing any kind of mask mandate options.”

One of the biggest questions surrounding these new developments has been on the potential changes to the Student Union and its possible return to the pre-covid era. Students and teachers alike have been waiting for the comeback of the long, connected dining tables, the pool and ping pong tables, and just the overall ability to communicate and sit with each other. It is a tricky balance for the school between resuming normalcy and being cautious. According to Chris Tennyson, Dean of Students & Academic Affairs, there are two things that we as a community have to be aware of. First, “the pool tables are difficult to set up”, and second, “as the weather gets colder, we are more indoors.” However, even though we have to be cautious, Tennyson did talk about one long-awaited return as a real possibility, “Our hope is that if we can make changes in the dining hall… This would also open up the opportunity for more space downstairs and the possibility of pool tables being put back.” 

The main cause of concern and hesitancy towards these decisions on the Student Union is that there have been eight positive cases on campus this year, with a number of them being breakthrough cases. According to Tennyson, “ just because we are fully vaccinated, doesn’t mean that we can’t get it. So, we still have to be cautious.” In addition to this, Tennyson still views the new policy updates as a victory for the LFA community, “in terms of the weekend activities, and the van runs… it helps a lot. Knowing that people can go to Target, or Mitsuwa, or Michigan Avenue… We will keep monitoring it, and always ask ourselves and consult with our medical teams, what we can do next to progress back to normal.”