gomberg

Getting our kids and grandkids safely back into school has got to be priority one.

As parents, students, and educators anxiously return to in-person learning this week, it’s important to keep in mind where we were this time last year. While the ramifications of COVID-19 devastated communities, shuttered businesses, and left so many of us uncertain about the future, our kids were forced into a remote learning environment built on compromises for the sake of public health.

This March, Governor Brown announced a return to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year. Let’s keep it that way.

The decision to shift to remote learning last year was a choice no one wanted to make. Clearly, the best place for our kids’ social and educational development is in the classroom. Nonetheless, circumstances led us to a school year in which everyone struggled -- our educators, our parents, and certainly our children.

 Educators scrambled to figure out ways they could adapt their curricula to suit the unique landscape of online learning. Working parents, already contending with the challenges of the pandemic and a lack of childcare opportunities were abruptly forced into the position of home-educator. Businesses that could open found they had fewer employees to open with. And children were separated from their schools and deprived of the social experiences and much of the professional support they needed. Needless to say, this was not an ideal situation.

 With the new school year looming, I fear that if we don’t take action now, we risk compromising another year of our kids’ education.

 Unfortunately, the situation with the Delta variant has been rapidly evolving. Communities are struggling, our hospitals are at capacity, and very sadly, we are seeing too many fatalities. Our children are at lower risk, but are still unvaccinated and vulnerable.

 At present, every corner of our state is contending with ICUs reaching capacity. This means that not only will COVID-19 patients have a hard time getting the emergency treatment they need, but so too will the rest of the population that may require a stay at the ICU for any number of reasons, like a heart attack, stroke, or even an auto or workplace accident. This month, the Oregon National Guard was deployed to hospitals around the state to assist our medical workers dealing with the recent surge.

I get mail expressing frustration that students will be required to wear masks while in indoor classrooms. Masks, while inconvenient, offer an effective layer of protection against the spread of COVID-19 and its highly contagious delta variant. One of our Superintendents told me it is a small price to pay for getting schools open again.

Keeping our kids healthy should certainly be our first concern, but we can’t forget how important in-person learning truly is. Until we have a vaccine for children under 12, it’s more important than ever that community leaders, educators, and parents step up to keep our kids safe, and to also keep them in the classroom.

It’s imperative that we encourage and maintain social distancing and to promote proper hygiene among our students. It’s imperative that we encourage proper mask usage and promote a robust and engaging learning environment. But most importantly, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to prevent needless community spread of COVID-19 so we can keep our schools open and accessible to the students and parents that rely on them.

Our kids and grandkids deserve our support, our sacrifice, and our kindness. So let’s get vaccinated, mask up, and keep this school year safe, productive, and open.

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