It's encouraging to see area school districts making plans to allow as many students as possible to return to classrooms this spring, but we hope families will keep in mind that opening schools is a difficult balancing act and that flexibility is going to be a big part of the equation.
As more and more teachers are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and positivity rates in the community continue falling, school districts are working through some best-case scenarios aimed at getting students back in school buildings five days a week.
Cato-Meridian has a tentative three-part plan that would result in students in every grade level having the opportunity to go to school five days a week by the end of April. Moravia, Auburn and other district leaders are hoping that restrictions on things like social distancing will be loosened as infection rates drop so that they can better manage an increase in in-class participation.
Educators widely agree that in-person instruction continues to be the most effective, so districts with proper staffing and building space should certainly move toward opening more classrooms. Having said that, some students are doing just fine doing their schoolwork at home, so fully remote and hybrid models need to remain options for families who aren't comfortable with school buses and classrooms at this time.
As much as it is heartening to see progress being made on vaccinations and public spaces opening up more and more, caution is still key, because the reality is that right now a majority of people are still waiting their turn for a vaccine and the coronavirus remains a danger.
There is certainly a better chance of things returning closer to normal in the fall, but anything that can be done to help students better succeed between now and summer should be investigated.
School districts should continue to gather feedback from families and be proactive about communicating their plans as they evolve. It's not realistic to believe that the final weeks of this school year are going to go off without a hitch, but with a year of COVID-19 lessons learned, school districts have a good understanding of what works and what doesn't, so we remain optimistic that things will continue to improve for students.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.