Essential reporting in volatile times.

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Sometimes, knowing something is coming doesn’t make it easier.

Students, parents, teachers and school personnel throughout West Virginia had to know, or at least have a strong feeling, that they wouldn’t be returning to school buildings to finish out the 2019-20 year. As the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched out — and the only effective suppression being social distancing, limiting crowds and restricting travel — it became obvious that ending in-person school for the year was the correct decision.

That doesn’t mean it was an easy call for Gov. Jim Justice — or something that was easy to hear for everyone affected.

For many parents and guardians, this means continuing to juggle work responsibilities and filling in as teachers for their children. For children in unstable or dangerous home situations, it means they won’t be returning to what is perhaps their only sanctuary of stability, where they are cared for and looked after.

Of course, for high school and college seniors, it means a certain lack of formal finality regarding a huge chapter in their lives. For athletes, it means seasons are over. There won’t be tournaments or champions. That’s hard for the kids who have given their dedication to a sport. It’s hard for coaches, too.

Again, it’s especially tough for those in their final year, as they’ll be left to wonder how things might have ended, rather than getting to see it through.

In the end, though, it had to be done. Hopefully, students will be able to tell the story of the 2020 pandemic as a historical outlier; a crazy time they lived through. Hopefully, this will be a once-a-generation thing. If the country is lucky, grandchildren will look at their grandparents and marvel at the constant hand-washing.

It possibly will resemble the way younger generations of Americans now look at those who survived the Great Depression and World War II — cocking an eyebrow at stashes of cans or tasting soap on home-baked cookies because a plastic baggie has been washed and reused multiple times.

It’s a shame to lose this time that’s so special to so many. But living to either bore or fascinate future generations with the tale of the end of the school year that wasn’t will be worth it.