Editorial: Set the students free

Posted 8/5/21

Let this next month be a time of great creativity, innovation and courage in education. It will take all three to send the children back to school without masks.

Given all the messages coming …

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Editorial: Set the students free


Let this next month be a time of great creativity, innovation and courage in education. It will take all three to send the children back to school without masks.

Given all the messages coming from big government, with the CDC and state leaders all recommending everyone mask-up in school, it seems unlikely any small government (administration or school committee) will choose its own path. They will have our strong support if they do.

The children have already given so much in this pandemic. Largely unaffected by the virus itself, they have been significantly affected by the rules governing society for the past year and a half. Distanced and quarantined, they lost lost milestones, friends, activities and experiences.

Their sports were shut down, their music and theater performances canceled, their schools altered to barely resemble anything “normal.” Fear and anxiety have become constants in their lives. Mental health crisis are exploding, and the few mental health providers in this region are overwhelmed.

The students who attended school in person last year (for whatever part of the year their school was actually open) logged more mask time than the vast majority of adults in this country. Outside of medical professionals, most adults spend their days living no-mask or partial-mask lives. They now work from home mask-less, wear masks in common areas but remove them in their personal offices, work jobs with short shifts, step outside for frequent mask breaks, take them off in their cars, etc.

Their children, on the other hand, trudge off to high-intensity environments, forced to sanitize their hands upon entry and exit, wear masks almost constantly for seven hours, and find ways to thrive intellectually, socially and emotionally despite the thin barriers muffling their voices and covering their faces.

Many families made the choice to vaccinate their children (12 and older), despite some worries about the unknown effects, because they believed it would open doors to a more “normal” existence for their children. They believed their children could go to school without masks this fall.

The announcement that masks will be mandatory — and it feels like an announcement is imminent — will be a crushing setback for so many of them.

We urge school leaders to find ways to send the kids back to school without masks 100 percent of the time. Wear them in the common areas, remove them in the classrooms. Maintain some distancing measures. Consider your community’s overall vaccination rate. Find ways to give students the most normal experiences possible.

It’s cliché to say the kids have suffered enough — in this case, we believe they have.

Let this next month be a time of great innovation and courage. Give the kids a break and let them breathe again in school.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.