Welcome back

Our overly-large school district has completed two weeks of the new academic year, opening with the very positive “Returning Strong” as the official PR department slogan. The superintendent’s many email messages emphasize that all will be normal (sorta), with everyone in-person, five days a week.

I suppose there is some justification for that optimism.

The Northern Virginia area has a relatively high percentage of people fully vaccinated, including teenagers. The system is also requiring all employees to get the shots (or submit to regular testing). Plus, masks are mandatory in the buildings and student athletes must be vaccinated.

But even with all those requirements and the relatively favorable trends, the virus still looms large over everything happening inside and outside of classrooms.

The vaccine isn’t yet available for elementary-age kids, and we’ve watched other parts of the country where COVID cases are still rising and some schools have already had to close.

Plus, even in this solidly blue part of Virginia, we still have a small core of noisy anti-vaxxer, anti-mask, conspiracy-spreading nut jobs working hard to prolong the misery in the name of “freedom”.

However, even with the pandemic fall is still my favorite season. Besides hating summer and the feeling of relief that comes with it’s end,1 I always fondly anticipated the start of a new school year with a mix of optimism and apprehension. A time when I have an opportunity to improve my practice and do better for my new students, while working hard to quickly learn about all 150 (or more) of them.

Anyway, based on what I hear from friends, former colleagues, family, and neighbors, those feelings are heightened this year, and mixed with large doses of nervousness, uncertainty, and a little fear.

After all, this is the third school year that will be heavily impacted by the pandemic. Those kids who the super says are “returning strong” have been under a great deal of emotional stress for going on 18 months now and sitting in classrooms while masked can’t be easy. And their teachers have a large collection of stresses of their own, both at school and home, to deal with.

So, let’s hope for the best as this school year moves cautiously forward. We should be celebrating this season of new beginnings and great possibilities, instead of the many other worries that are currently getting in the way.

At the elementary school around the corner, someone (probably the PTA) erected a display to celebrate the re-opening of physical school.

1. I should write an explanatory rant about that sometime.