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For many parents of children from kindergarten to high school, the first day of the new school year is bittersweet. It marks a milestone and growth that can be measured in pride and sentiment. For the students, especially younger ones, it can be a time of excitement mixed with nervousness.

This year will be different for all of those students, with the coronavirus pandemic looming over everything. Students in nine West Virginia counties began school Tuesday looking at computer or iPad screens from home, with COVID-19 too big a risk for in-person classes. Some already opted for online learning for the year. Others have left public schools for homeschooling, at least for the present.

For those who did attend class in person, masks, a lot of disinfectant and significant space apart were new wrinkles and will remain a constant and, hopefully, effective deterrent against outbreaks in West Virginia schools.

When schools dismissed temporarily in March and were eventually shut down for the remainder of the year a month later because of the virus, it was hard to imagine that COVID-19 would still be a prevalent problem in the fall. Of course, as the days, weeks and months passed, expectations began to change.

The situation in West Virginia is far from perfect. Some teachers, no doubt, will be talking in their sleep, saying “mute, now unmute” as they toss and turn. Families will be taking more time than ever to help facilitate online learning. Some parents whose children are going to classes in person will be worrying about something almost inconceivable a year earlier.

Hopefully, there will be a vaccine soon. And, hopefully, this is a once-in-a-generation type of thing. In the meantime, hats off to all the teachers, parents and students as they navigate a year unlike any other.