Our View: Let schools open peacefully, without distractions | VailDaily.com

Our View: Let schools open peacefully, without distractions

Our kids are watching us. They’re taking their cues from us, the grownups, as another local school year begins with emotions running high.

The Friday announcement that Eagle County will issue a public health order Monday requiring masks in local schools, where large populations of students aren’t eligible for vaccines, has pushed our community to the edges. The frustration and anger are palpable.

It’s why there will be a notable law enforcement presence on hand Monday as local schools open. And with everyone watching, here’s the question that we’ve got to answer as a community: What kind of example will we set for our children?

That should be top of mind for each and every grownup in this valley as educators, who’ve prepared for weeks for this moment, and students, who are always excited for the first day of school, get back in the classroom to get back to learning.

We’re calling on every single Eagle County resident to let our kids and our educators go back to school peacefully — without disruption or additional emotional stress.

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Let’s let our teachers teach; let’s let our students learn; and let’s be adults and let our disagreements happen out of view of the important work that’s happening inside those classrooms.

Can we at least agree on one thing: Every single parent in this valley and every student, teacher, principal, bus driver, cafeteria worker and school janitor wishes this pandemic would just be over and done with. Whether you disagree with the county’s public health order or support it, we all want to get back to life as normal.

We’re past pandemic fatigue, especially after a summer in which we were able to get out and enjoy life in this beautiful valley free of restrictions.

But let’s also be clear: The delta variant — and the summer surge that is filling up hospital beds across the country and has claimed the lives of three county residents in the last three weeks — has redrawn the lines in this fight against COVID-19.

There’s no underselling that fact. Our current community incidence rate is more than seven times higher than it was at this time last year when schools opened.

The big difference is that, in these last 12 months, safe, effective vaccines became available, and we responded by going out and doing the work of getting vaccinated to move past public health orders designed to slow the spread and protect our most vulnerable populations.

Our students have done that work, too. The county’s rate for at least one dose of vaccine for anyone 12 and older is now at 85.7%. As of Aug. 12, the rates for youth 12 to 15 years old is 70.1% and even higher for young adults 16 to 17 years old (84.4%) and 18 to 19 years old (83.7%).

But there are no vaccines yet for youth under 12, and with so much still unknown about this latest variant of the virus — outside of it being twice as contagious, and with local incident rates where they currently are — public health officials made the agonizing decision in coordination with school officials to start the year with masks in most schools.

There’s no conspiracy here. This was no coordinated, sudden reversal that was in the works all along following a summer of contentious school board meetings. It’s a decision simply based on the data, just like every decision public health officials have made throughout this pandemic. We’re in a bad spot, and we’ve got to pull together as a community to lower our incident rate to avoid significant classroom disruptions.

We’ve done that repeatedly, and we can do it again. And since we’ve got work to do as a community, please ask yourself this: Will stomping and screaming and making a scene about this change anything?

You want to protest? That’s your right, but do it somewhere else other than school grounds. You want to express your anger with blistering emails or phone calls to county and school district officials? That’s your choice.

But it’s not going to lower that troubling caseload, nor will it endear you to your fellow neighbors at a time when we’re all dealing with unprecedented circumstances.

We’d rather you channel that energy into something positive — something that sets an example for our children when it comes to community values and how we co-exist in this valley.

We’re counting on you to set an example, Eagle County. Don’t let it be the wrong one.

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