The Bowling Green Independent School District and Warren County Public Schools resumed classes last week, and both districts began the academic year by aiming to offer students and staff the closest thing to a “normal” school environment as they’ve experienced since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
Despite rising COVID-19 cases locally and around the nation, neither BGISD nor WCPS required masks at the onset of classes – a decision that we, like many in the community, thought was a reasonable move, at least until local data showed that a change in that policy was prudent.
For at least one district, that change came quickly. Earlier this week, after only a few days of classroom instruction, both districts reported rising numbers of quarantine cases among students and staff. WCPS on Monday reported more than 100 active COVID-19 cases among students and staff combined, and by Monday evening the district announced the reinstatement of a mask mandate for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, through at least Labor Day weekend. BGISD, which reported 28 total cases between students and staff Monday, had not – at least by deadline for this editorial – announced an update to its existing mask policy.
Needless to say, the coming days and weeks will reveal much about the outlook in both districts. We join the vast majority of local parents and educators in believing that in-person instruction is best for students’ academic progress and mental and emotional health. The first priority for area districts should be to do whatever is necessary to avoid a return to remote learning, which – despite the best efforts of all involved – simply was not a suitable replacement for face-to-face interaction between students and staff. If masks are necessary to keep kids healthy and in school – and to mitigate the disruptions caused by new cases and quarantines – then so be it.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus is a relatively new consideration in school safety, but we also want to renew the focus on an age-old concern: reminding motorists to be aware that some kids will be walking to and from school, other kids will be riding bikes and some will be getting on and off school buses. Motorists also should remember to stop on both sides of the road when a bus stop arm is extended. The only exception is on a divided highway such as U.S. 68-Ky. 80, in which case, only vehicles going the same direction in which the bus is traveling should stop.
Motorists should allow ample time to get to and from locations so they are not rushed or driving too fast, which could result in an accident. This might be especially important right now: Several studies throughout the COVID era, including one this year from Boston University, have found that many drivers are driving faster and more recklessly than usual amid the pandemic. The Boston University study (which actually focused on noise pollution generated by speeding drivers) concluded that less commuter traffic during the COVID age – resulting from more companies allowing remote working and/or fewer people currently being in the workforce – has opened up many roads around the nation and inspired some motorists to push the pedal a little harder.
Now that school buses are back on the roads, this sort of dangerous driving behavior could have tragic consequences. No one wants this to happen, so please be very mindful of school zones with lower speed limits and kids walking in and around these zones when school begins.
Welcome, students, to the 2021-22 school year. It’s impossible to predict how things are going to unfold, but we hope each of you has a rewarding and productive year.