The chatter in my D Period class continued as normal as we discussed the possibility of no longer wearing masks on campus anymore. “How does [the administration] decide if we go mask-optional or not?” a classmate asked. The question was met with silence. None of us knew what had happened behind the scenes for us to become mask-optional. Besides the threadbare instructions that I received each week, I knew next to nothing about the measures that Lawrenceville was taking to ensure our safety. As Lawrenceville begins to lift its Covid-19 restrictions, the School should increase transparency around its decision-making process to incentivize students to adhere to all safety protocols.
When our new mask-optional status was first announced, my initial excitement was tinged with worry. Although the School had notified us that we would no longer be required to wear masks indoors, I had no idea what conditions had allowed us to take our masks off. Not only was the School’s mask mandate lifted, but our required weekly testing schedule was as well. In lieu of weekly testing, the School changed its system to only test symptomatic students. However, we don’t seem to have a concrete plan to identify symptomatic individuals, pushing the responsibility of symptom-tracking onto the students themselves. Yet given Lawrentians’s busy schedules, most students probably wouldn’t make the hike to the Infirm for a Covid test. After all, a positive test would be an immediate sentence to a week in the trailers. It would be more convenient to dismiss symptoms as those of a mild sickness.
The School's loosened safety protocols don’t mean that Covid-19 has disappeared. We cannot disregard the pandemic’s impact on our community. Across the globe, new variants continue to emerge; across Lawrenceville, immunocompromised faculty members and their young children remain unvaccinated. The current lack of masks, especially when coupled with the recent influx of possibly unvaccinated or infected visitors into campus during Discovery Days, poses a threat to the health of our community. Another rise in the number of Covid-19 infections would return us to the rigid regulations of previous terms such as the return of masks, or at the very worst, another virtual term.
If we fail to meet a certain standard of health, we will lose the freedoms we have earned over two years. Yet to meet that standard of health, we must truly understand the gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic. We must understand the basis of reasoning in any changes of health protocol to appreciate these measures as necessary precautions rather than chores or personal inconveniences. First, the School must continue to update its Covid-19 dashboard. We must remain aware of even the slightest uptick in cases and accommodate our behavior accordingly. Then, the administration and Health Center should coordinate to provide regular Covid-19 updates and explain how close or far we are from surpassing certain standards. We will feel a greater––but necessary––urgency to remain Covid-cautious and ensure the health of our community.
As we return to a more normal pace of life, we gain a greater responsibility for the health of our peers. The School must provide greater transparency about the state of Covid-19 on campus and the students will rise to the occasion accordingly. After all, this institution is a partnership between students and administration; collaboration is essential to the success of all facets of Lawrenceville––especially our collective health.