Editiorial: Milestone worth celebrating

The Mount Desert Island Regional School System announced last week that all students will return to the classroom for in-person instruction this fall. Like many across the state, MDIRSS schools kept the doors open throughout the 2020-21 year despite the pandemic but provided an online option for students who chose to remain at home.

Full-time school will be a huge benefit for children, many of whom have been isolated from friends and have missed the security and structure of a normal school year.

It will also be a bonus for parents who have had to juggle work schedules to care for children who could not go to school. And it will also provide relief for employers, many of whom are struggling to find workers.

The school system will also require its students to be masked – a topic that other school systems are still grappling with.

We learned during the last year and a half that wearing face coverings stops the spread of the coronavirus. While there were isolated cases of COVID-19 among students and staff in Maine schools last year, there were no major school-based outbreaks in the area. That shows that classes can be held safely this year, even as we wait for a vaccine that is safe and effective for the youngest students.

As school districts endeavor to write the COVID rules that will allow them to safely open for the fall term, the public health guidance and the virus itself are changing. We urge patience for all parents who are also struggling with the lack of structure. We can get through this, but we all have to work together.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommends that everyone should wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose when they are indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. Since a vaccine has not been approved for children younger than 12, schools are exactly the indoor spaces where these rules should be observed.

Most kids have gotten used to wearing masks and are just looking forward to getting back to school with their friends, so let’s not complicate the situation by attaching a social or political stigma to mask wearing in general.

Safely opening schools for five-day-a-week, in-person education is very good news, even if students and staff have to cover their mouths and noses when they are indoors. The pandemic is not over, but a return to full-time schooling is a milestone we should celebrate.

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