34 COMMUNITY MAGAZINE At the time of writing, the COVID-19 situation, and the situation in the world in general, seem to be changing so rapidly it is hard to predict with certainty what even the next few weeks will bring. The facts noted in this article and the opinions professed are accurate at the moment. By the time of publication, you may already see things have changed. We are all praying for an end to the pandemic and a return to life as normal. As it stands, after a year of on-and-off Zoom learning, schools across the country are mandating in-person learning this coming school year. Mixed Reactions to the Reopening of Schools Students, teachers, and parents are enthusiastic about a full reopening of schools for the 2021-2022 school year. However, returning to school for in-person learning may also be causing some nervousness about being in a more structured setting and processing new rules and relationships. While we look forward to connecting with classmates and colleagues in person, we acknowledge that the COVID-19 environment is constantly changing. Normal as we knew it before the pandemic has changed. We have become accustomed to living a pandemic life. A New Focus A year ago, the million-dollar question was: can our children return to school safely? The COVID-19 environment was unpredictable, and people had not been vaccinated. The Covid situation has improved tremendously, and the vaccine rollout continues, but we are not yet out of the woods. Wemust be prepared for disruptions to in-person school if the number of COVID-19 cases surges. Thisyear, publicofficialsare focusingonrecoveryandhealing, bringing staff and students back to work and school, and keeping them safe. Some educators call it a resilient reopening. Why resilient? Practicing resilience is what got us successfully through the past 17 months and will continue to enable us to live as normal a life as we can. We lived with uncertainty and turned difficult situations into opportunities. In July, NYC Mayor de Blasio announced that NYC is back and fully reopened. Sixty-six percent of the city’s adult population was fully vaccinated as of early August. NJ Governor Murphy is also proud that NJ’s full vaccinated rate reached 58% but sounded the alarm on the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Delta Variant Changes the Game The Delta variant has thrown us a curveball and government and health officials are laser-focused on fighting it. On July 9 th , the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that only unvaccinated staff and students need to wear masks in schools. Eighteen days later, on July 27 th , the CDC reversed course, and now recommends that all students and staff mask up, irrespective of vaccination status. The updated guidance advises wearing a mask in indoor public settings in areas of substantial and high transmission. Why the Reversal? Thegoodnews is that if COVID-19 infectiondoes occur, it ismuch less likely to cause serious illness or death for those who are vaccinated. Moreover, officials are gratified that schools have not been a major cause of Covid spreading, which they attribute to the combination of prevention measures that have been in place and have proved effective. A key takeaway from the CDC updated guidance is that students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction is a priority. School policies related to masking and COVID-19 protocols are determined by individual states. In vicinities where COVID-19 is spreading, officials are promoting masking in public indoor settings as an additional defense against the Delta variant. ELLEN GELLER KAMARAS Back to School CanWe Move Forward?