It has been approximately six months in the making, and now school has begun. This school year will be like none other. On Tuesday, there were students who boarded school buses to head to their school buildings, those who turned on devices for virtual learning and others who relied on a variety of resources to engage with their teachers. The COVID-19 pandemic has not given up on us. It is still among us. For that reason, West Virginians can’t give up on one another. Now more than ever, it is imperative for community members to support and protect one another.
When the state hunkered down in March with hopes that the disease would blow over, our students illustrated exemplary resilience. The school year came to an end, and many of our children forged through the challenging times with dogged determination. The class of 2020 conjured the spirit of the greatest generation and relied upon sheer tenacity to finish academic courses and forego tradition with delayed graduations, canceled proms and missed opportunities to say one last goodbye to teachers and friends.
Now, here we are, full of questions as we begin a new academic year. Our school year is dictated by a four-tiered color scale. Will our counties be green, will we creep up to yellow, and how can we stay away from orange and red?
We must also remember our vulnerable populations. These students were at-risk even before the pandemic hit. They have been separated from school and the stability that it provides for almost six months. The ability to return to in-person instruction is important for all students, but critically so for those who depend on their schools to meet basic, social-emotional and academic needs.
My challenge to everyone is to continue to sacrifice today to enjoy more freedom tomorrow. Practicing best health protocols such as using masks, social distancing and limiting travel will lead to lower community transmission of COVID-19. We may be tempted to resort to our old ways of maneuvering about without a care in the world, but we must exercise the precautions that will reduce transmission of the disease.
Don’t give up and don’t give in. We all want to resume life as it was. The most direct route to making this happen is listening to our health experts and following the protocols. We need to be vigilant in controlling COVID-19. If we do this, school, extracurricular activities and athletics will be permitted to continue.
While the likelihood of a vaccination may be promising, we live in the present and our best chances of community recovery lie with the decisions we make every day. Today’s choices will manifest in about five to 14 days — the time that it takes COVID-19 symptoms to surface. Everyone is invested because we can make strides only if we collectively get on board and make the right decisions.
The bottom line is that good community health will lead to more school activities. For those who were able to fully enjoy the rites of passage of high school and fondly remember those days, please do all that you can to mitigate the disease so that the class of 2021 will be able to enjoy the same.
As for those youngsters who have a lifetime of experiences ahead of them, take heed and live cautiously, because those among us who are a little bit older still have plenty of life to live as well.