A glimmer of joy at the start of the school year

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Even in this unusually busy back-to-school season, with an increase in transmissions and hospitalizations of COVID-19, there is reason to celebrate – so cautiously – the return of students to classrooms.

The dangerous Delta variant has rekindled fears of in-person instruction, but education and health officials have worked diligently to make returning to the classroom as safe as possible. The governor’s new mask and vaccination warrants were just the latest decision.

The state Department of Health updated the safety guidelines for schools earlier this month, reflecting the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School districts like Bellevue, where administrators and teacher unions clashed over plans to reopen last year, have made deals or are almost there.

Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Education Association negotiators last Thursday reached an interim COVID health and safety deal for final approval by union members and the school board, the district said.

Most parents and students have had at least some practice in newer routines like masking, distancing and hand washing, even though their districts only offered blended learning for a few weeks last spring. This fall, every Washington student will have access to valuable in-person education.

While the usual exhilaration is tempered by caution, back to school is, as Washington Association of School Administrators executive director Joel Aune said, “a very exciting and upbeat time of year.”

“Our administrators and teachers are always very excited to get the children back,” Aune said.

We can’t afford to be complacent – the fall semester may still hold some surprises – but we have to be confident knowing that all the elements are in place.


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