By The Mapleton Press

As the 2020-2021 school year kicks off this week around the state of Iowa, there are a number of unknowns, not only in education, but with everything.

It hard to believe it has been five months since students walked into school buildings around the area.

While there might be some mixed emotions about students returning to school, school administrators and Return to Learn committees have spent countless hours this summer working on plans to make sure everyone is safe. Health and safety have been their top priority.

Having read through the schools (MVAO and COU) Return to Learn plans a number of times, it is remarkable all of the topics administrators have had to think about in preparing for students and staff to return to school; from transportation to adding more sanitation, to face masks to socially distancing students in classrooms, to how they will eat lunch to using water fountains, to putting together plans if a student/staff member/teacher gets sick.

Administrators have had to come up with not one, but three different models of learning for the school year: on-site learning (100% capacity with all students in school every day), hybrid learning, and virtual learning.

Like one of the administrators said when talking to him, none of the administrators have ever before had to plan on how to return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic and hope they never have to use these plans again. Just like schools have fire drills, tornado drills, and active shooter plans, you have to have them, but hope you never have to use them.

All administrators and schools are “in the same boat” and have been learning as they go.

Coaches have also had to make adjustments to practices. They have stressed to their players that in order to have a season, they will have to follow certain steps or protocols. The state athletic unions have made choices to ensure athletes are kept safe,

It will be different covering school activities for the newspaper this school year. At this time, there will be no big school assemblies or class/group pictures, and it is unknown if they will have music concerts. And what will homecoming look like in 2020?

While some parts of the plan might work better then others, and some might need adjusted as students return. The main goal is to keep everyone: students, teachers, staff, and community safe.

We feel it is important to have children in the classroom: learning face-to-face with their teachers and being with their friends and classmates, even though they might be wearing a mask and being socially distanced.

It is understandable that some families might not feel comfortable sending their kids to school due to health concerns for the student and/or family. The school is providing those students will the opportunity to do voluntary remote learning.

We think small schools have an advantage, as smaller class sizes will help students stay socially distanced easier in the classroom and hallways. In on-site learning with 100% capacity with all students in school every day, think about how different walking down a hallway in a packed Sioux City high school would be compared to walking down a hallway at MVAOCOU.

Today’s students will some day be in our workforce and running the country, and it’s important for them to continue their education.

We wish everyone involved, from students, teachers, school administrators, staff, and parents their family members the best as the 2020-2021 school year gets underway.

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