Much needed: a normal school year

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Credit: Julia Raymond

Junior Lauren Medeiros poses for the first day of all-in on April 27th. For the 2021-2022 school year, the all-in plan will stay in place. This is exciting news, showing we are getting back to “normal.”

Julia Raymond

On May 27th, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts informed superintendents that all COVID-19 related protocols, including social distancing, will be lifted at schools for the fall of 2021. Everyone at school will be required to go fully back in person, and the state will not allow remote learning as an option. To my knowledge, the state has not addressed the mask policy. In my opinion, at the beginning of the year masks will be required, and by the end, they won’t be.

After a year in the pandemic, this is no doubt the right decision. Enough learning has already been lost in the worst months of the pandemic and the hybrid model made learning difficult. It was not until we went five days a week when students began to engage and understand the lessons that teachers taught them in class. Teachers could not get through nearly as much material as they would have in a normal year, but this was out of their control.

Going back fully in April worked as a test run for what the fall will look like. So far, there has not been a rise in COVID-19 cases and classes at full capacity are working better. Many were worried classes would be too crowded and social distancing would not be applicable, but this has not been a problem. With the warm weather, classes have been able to be held outside, which has helped and can continue in the fall.

More than half of Massachusetts is vaccinated (51.7%) and the CDC recently approved for kids twelve and older to get vaccinated. With most people vaccinated, cases will reduce, a trend that is already happening. The number of cases, not only in Massachusetts but the world, are going down each day. In Massachusetts on May 27, there were a total of 215 new confirmed cases. This is a fairly low number relative to the number of people in the state.

Although elementary school students won’t be vaccinated, a large portion of the community is, which makes it highly unlikely that there will be a spike in cases. It’s also important that elementary schools do not offer online learning. Interacting in person is a key part of their learning. It is not good to have first graders staring at a screen for that much time. First graders can not learn to make friends and connections through Zoom.

The WRAP program at Wayland, which is a fully remote plan for students who are not comfortable going to school, was effective this year, but will not be necessary next year. It is understandable to feel uncomfortable going fully in for the first time in a year when some are not vaccinated, but in the fall things will be much different. It is hard to run a class with just one or two students on Zoom.

It is exciting for our world to be finally moving forward. It has been a hard year for students and it’s time to get back to normal. I have high hopes for the 2021-2022 school year, and I believe the state is making the right decision.