Like many educators, I thought this school year would be different than the last school year. While there are many more students in the building than the previous year, we still are still suffering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it impacts student learning. Many schools are four to five weeks into the 2021-2022 school year, and it has already been a roller coaster of a ride.
The school year started with many schools not enforcing the mask mandate. Due to the rise of COVID cases due to the Delta variant, there was an adjustment to require masks even for those teachers who are vaccinated. Our charter network and other districts implemented the mandate before welcoming students back into the building.
While we were all hoping for the school year to be more normal or resemble the start of the 2019-2020 school year and hopefully end like the 2018-2019 school year, this year will be unique. Thus far, we have seen the violence towards school administrators for implementing mask mandates across the country because many still believe the pandemic and the virus are not real. There have been countless stories about parents showing up to schools because they were mad that their school required their children to wear a mask, I think it is safe to say that we all feel a little bit of mask fatigue. While we are feeling mask fatigue, I believe we are more feeling fatigue from the pandemic.
The number one question many are asking each day is whether we will return to remote learning. The fear of having to send children back home for learning is on the minds of teachers and parents. The research has shown the drop-in learning due to remote learning. While there have been success stories, I believe more about how much learning students have lost since March of 2020. I am sure many districts are having a conversation regarding a return to remote learning. The fear of remote learning returning is real because someplace COVID is running rapidly through schools, taking students and teachers out of school for multiple days. There are also many teachers fearful of returning to the building, even those that decided on getting the vaccine.
Indiana’s governor adjusted the quarantine requirements for K-12 schools. There is a stronger emphasis to encourage schools to enforce a mask mandate, so if a student were to test positive, the close contact individuals do not have to quarantine if they had on a mask. In many cases, that helps to ensure the entire classroom of students do not have to be home for an extended period due to a positive case. While the governor gave this option with an executive order, many school districts still have close contacts quarantining.
COVID school year part 2 is sure to come with its surprises, but I am keeping the same focus this year. The priorities are the same. I keep children safe, and I make sure children learn.