The Park Saves the Day for Latin’s Middle School


Lincoln Park, the beautiful 1,208-acre plain that extends from Latin’s northern edge to the far-away land of Edgewater, has allowed the Middle School to return to full-time in-person learning. Lunch, spring sports, and now graduation—all possible because of the park.

Middle School Director Deb Sampey explained that “due to CDPH guidelines, Latin continues to follow strict limitations of no more than 50 for indoor gatherings.” Luckily, Latin’s front yard is Lincoln Park. “The park has opened the door for full grades to be together for lunch and recess,” said Ms. Sampey, “Monday, May 3rd lunch was the first time the entire grades were able to be together since early March 2020.”

People might be wondering about those futuristic white tents just east of the Lincoln Statue. These tents are Latin’s new outdoor Middle School lunchroom. Lunch has moved outside to Lincoln Park, and the students are loving it. Middle School Dean Renie Dunn-Finch noted in an email update she sent to parents that “the students have really enjoyed eating outdoors with all their classmates and having an extended recess period with the entire grade. They have had so much fun.”

Eighth-grader Christiano Tricoci endorses the move outdoors. “I think outdoor dining is a great workaround for eating lunch,” said Christiano, “This is great because you can talk to all your friends at a safe distance.” Eighth-grader Eva Lapiere added, “I like eating outside because we get to get air.”

In addition to extended recess after lunch in the park, there are after school sports every day at 3:30 p.m. on the Lincoln Park fields. “Athletics is happy to be providing Middle School athletes with the opportunity to exercise, socialize with peers, and work on their skills,” said Middle School Athletic Director David VanderMeulen. “This is an important part of the Middle School experience, and it is great to see the student-athletes participating. We are also excited to be using Lincoln Park for some of our traditional spring sports as it provides us the space and convenience necessary to run these practices.”

After enduring a year with no Middle School sports, the park has also allowed students to participate enthusiastically in athletics each afternoon. Baseball started on May 10. Eighth-grader Ryder Shiffman is looking forward to playing. “I am really excited to play baseball this season,” said Ryder. “It was a really long off-season with COVID forcing us to take last year off. I can’t wait to get out there with my friends.”

The best news of all is that the park offers the opportunity for a real in-person graduation for this year’s eighth grade. The Middle School Parent Association notified the eighth-graders and parents by email on May 5 that they were “happy to report that the eighth-graders will be able to have an in-person graduation to celebrate this important milestone.” Graduation will take place outside in Lincoln Park on June 9 and, if it rains, it will be rescheduled to June 10. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents are thrilled.

According to Ms. Sampey, “When we asked students for feedback on their hopes for graduation, their number one request was that they could all be together in one place. Graduation in Lincoln Park will allow us to bring the whole class together in a space that has meaning and place in their lives.”

Eighth-grader Fiona Van Nice agreed. “I can’t wait for outdoor graduation because my class can come together as a whole,” she said.

“I am excited about having an outdoor graduation because it is fully in person,” said Juliette Katz, also a member of the eighth grade class. “Although it isn’t the graduation I had expected a few years ago, I think that it will still feel relatively normal, as we will all be together. I am looking forward to our graduation and am hoping that it feels normal.”

For the first time in over a year, COVID will not prevent ceremonies and celebration. Of course, masking and physical distancing will be required, but there will be a real live and in-person graduation, just as there will be for the seniors, who will be holding theirs outside as well at Soldier Field.

Some, including eighth-grader Mia Kotler, even think it’s an improvement to hold the ceremony outside. “I may even go as far as saying graduation should continue to be placed outside,” said Mia. “Outside is a wonderful place to gather with friends and family. As long as the weather remains clear, outside graduation should be an astounding place to celebrate our ending of our Middle School career.”

Call it the Lincoln Park Lunchroom, the Lincoln Park Gym, or the Lincoln Park Auditorium. Turns out that Lincoln Park is the Latin Middle School’s multipurpose room. Latin is very lucky to have this tremendous amenity in its front yard, and Latin’s eighth grade is hoping for a sunny day to celebrate graduation in the park.