The summer of 2021 feels a bit like the summer of 2020 as we wonder what school will look like this fall. As we limped to the end of the 2020-2021 school year, it felt like the intensive public health mitigation strategies we had painstakingly implemented ended abruptly. Suddenly masks became optional, physical distancing measures were lifted and podding cohorts of students were no longer required. It was a head-spinning end of the school year as community safeguards were lifted with little thought to how this shift would impact schools.
Entering my 21st school year is filled with as many unknowns as my 20th. I was surprised when my state’s Governor announced that masks in school will no longer be mandatory. The reopening plan for the 2021-2022 school year was released this week, all 15 pages! Discretion regarding implementing public health mitigation strategies is left up to the school districts which is problematic when school nurses are left out of the planning.
Groundhog Day comes to mind, we have been here before, exactly a year ago. Not sure what the fall will look like feels eerily familiar and equally unwelcome. What is different now is that we will no longer be under the Governor’s Executive Orders, but each district will decide which safety measures will be implemented. I understand local decision-making, but we still have a majority of students who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. My question is how do we keep our youngest students safe if we are not using the strategies that we know work. What was last year all about if we are giving up now? We are so close to the finish line. I want to shout from the rooftops, “We’re just not there yet!”