Editorial: Students Equipped For What Comes Next

Editorial: Students Equipped For What Comes Next

There seems to be a palpable sense of optimism in the air these days.

Maybe it’s the time of year, as we say goodbye to winter and hello to spring. As the temperatures turn warmer and April showers bring promises of May flowers, there’s a natural feeling of renewal that can take hold. Hope certainly does spring eternal.

But it’s likely not just our approaching change of seasons. The tone of our national, state and local conversation when it comes to the pandemic has changed. Just listen to the former head of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who’s been one of the most prominent public health officials throughout the pandemic and one not necessarily prone to unvarnished optimism, as he talks about our hastening return to normal. Listen to Maura Esposito, director at Chesprocott Health District, who delivered some welcome news to the Town Council last week. “We are coming out of this,” she told the Councilors. It was a much-needed injection of optimism, just as the most important injections — the vaccinations — continue.

That’s why it seems appropriate that Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan decided this week, in the pages of The Herald, to acknowledge those within the school system who have had a hand in managing this most unusual and terrible time. It’s by no means a “Mission Accomplished” message, as Solan states at the top of his letter what we all know still to be true — the virus is out there, it’s dangerous, and precautions still need to be taken. Yet, the end-line can now be seen. We are approaching the point where the pandemic can and will be spoken of in the past tense.

That’s why we can certainly take a moment to comment on the impressive job that Cheshire’s educators, administrators, students and families have done in ensuring in-person instruction be maintained throughout this period. It’s not too early to say “job well done.”

This is, of course, something to be celebrated in the moment, especially since so many other Connecticut districts are just beginning to institute educational models that Cheshire has employed for months. But the real impact of Cheshire’s ability to stay ahead of the game likely won’t be felt for some time.

It’s impossible to know exactly how this pandemic will impact the future education of students all across the country, but most experts predict rather negative consequences. Stories of students falling behind, both in their studies and their emotional growth, abound.

What we’ve found over the last 12 months is that there is simply no substitute for in-person, teacher-to-student interactions, and many across the country will suffer educational consequences long after COVID-19 is behind us.

That’s why Cheshire’s commitment to keeping as many students in classrooms as possible, for as long as possible, has been so important. No, it hasn’t been ideal. Even being in the school buildings has felt different, with masks mandated and social distancing required. But altered in-person education is, simply put, better than full remote learning.

Maybe all the dire prognostications of how much students have “lost” over the last year will turn out to have been overly pessimistic. Perhaps students will be able to catch up quickly, and we’ll find that one year of pandemic learning wasn’t enough to derail our youngsters. We can all hope that turns out to be true.

But whatever the results, Cheshire students should be well equipped to handle what comes next. It hasn’t been perfect, and certainly not everyone has had the same experience, but overall, Cheshire’s teachers and administrators have made the best of a bad situation. They’ve given Cheshire’s next generous every chance to come out of this pandemic as educationally healthy as possible.

That deserves a moment of appreciation. 

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