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The negativity that adults project is felt, absorbed or even parroted by youngsters

In past years, as a new school year is about to begin, we have run an editorial reminding people to exercise extra caution on the roads. Kids are out on the streets again, twice a day, heading to school in the morning and back home again in the afternoon. It's time to pay attention to those school zone speed limits for the next nine months and keep an eye out for kids unexpectedly zipping out into crosswalks on foot or bike.

This year is no different – motorists should again be extra vigilant, and local law enforcement clearly agrees, as evidenced by their recent announcement of heightened enforcement in school zones.

But this year, there is more that adults can do to keep kids safe. This school year, thankfully, will open to in-person education, but unfortunately, the COVID pandemic hasn't quite gone away. After state leaders lifted mask and social distance mandates at the start of the summer, the delta variant has prompted them to reverse course and students will have to wear masks at school.

Some parents are clearly not happy about it – they made their feelings known at an August school board meeting. But for now, the school district is planning to follow the latest mandate or face hefty consequences.

It's hard to know for certain how long this latest surge will last, or whether it will be the last surge and the last variant we deal with in Crook County. One state report claims this wave will peak this week and start a two-month-long decline to pre-surge levels.

But until that happens, the community needs to protect student safety in another fashion. Setting aside how you feel about vaccines and masks, one thing that should not be up for debate is whether kids should go to school sick. This should be non-negotiable – if a kid is not feeling well, they should stay home. In this COVID era of education, kids should have a lot less trouble keeping up on their schoolwork from home than in the past.

The other suggestion is a bit trickier because it will take an adjustment in behavior. This pandemic and resulting restrictions have clearly taken their toll on people. Many are angry, depressed, frustrated and wondering when this will end. People are polarized and arguing.

All these feelings and reactions are completely understandable – it's hard to recall an event in recent history that even comes close to the same impact. But kids are impressionable and what they see and hear has an impact – the negativity that adults project is felt, absorbed or even parroted by youngsters.

So as this school year begins, it might benefit kids to see and hear some positivity. Yes, this whole pandemic thing has been a nightmare, but it shouldn't be an all-consuming life-suck. Amidst the difficulty remains all the things in life that we still value, enjoy and cherish – and while it is easy to set that stuff aside during this COVID upheaval, it would psychologically benefit kids to see overt examples of gratitude for what makes life enjoyable. It may not be easy, and it may not feel natural right now, but kids need to see and hear it. Who knows, it might even have a positive impact on the grown-ups who have forgotten about the good stuff.

None of this makes the pandemic or the current mandates go away. For now, the masks are back in schools and elsewhere, and the delta variant surge has yet to subside. But as the school year begins and we embrace habits to keep kids safe and healthy, counting blessings and showing gratitude should be a part of it.

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