CULTON: Back to school is around the corner

When I was a kid, the week or so leading up to back to school time was the best time. There was nothing better than roaming the aisles of Walmart searching for the cutest Lisa Frank pencil case (that I never used because I was as disorganized then as I am now) or picking out the first day of school outfit most assured to wow my friends (pretty difficult for me as I went to a private school with a strict uniform, but I made it work).

Though those days are long behind me, I still smile at the memories when I pass by the supermarket’s school supply section. However, this year, the thought of back to school makes me sad for today’s students.

Many area schools begin school within the next two weeks, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still in effect and no vaccine available, back to school this year has been anything but a joyful experience. Instead, it has been marred with confusion, concern and frustration from all sides.

Parents are concerned because they have to choose between sending their child to school in person and potentially exposing them to COVID-19 or keeping them home, which can cause delays in learning, create childcare conundrums and limit socialization. Teachers are concerned because they are being put on the frontlines and have to change everything about how they teach. Children are frustrated because they are being robbed of a traditional back to school experience, while administrators are running around making plans that could change in an instant.

It’s heartbreaking to see, and all I can say is that I’m glad I’m not the one having to make these decisions.

This is an incredibly difficult and complex problem, and I have nothing but respect for all the parents, teachers and administrators involved in deciding the future of this school year. I just hope that all decisions take into account the most important factor in all of this: the health of our community.

For districts going back to school in person, I hope parents will follow guidelines to screen their children for symptoms before they go to school and keep their children home if they are sick. I hope students will follow the rules and wear their masks, social distance and avoid gathering with large groups of their friends. Finally, I hope the schools take this seriously and take every precaution necessary to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.

If we can all take these precautions and work together, hopefully by next fall, our students can once again roam the back to school aisles at the supermarket with excitement. Hopefully, things will be back to normal — it’s what our students deserve.

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