With rising COVID cases, driven by the delta variant, and the beginning of school nigh, school districts across the state are debating whether or not to require masking. That’s a no-brainer: Mandate masks until all students can get vaccinated.

However, another item should be on the table for discussion, and that is once again providing a choice for students to attend school remotely. Yet for virtually every school district, including mine here in Gray-New Gloucester, it’s completely off the table. With a deteriorating COVID environment all around us, how can this be?

Is remote learning 100 percent ideal compared to in-classroom instruction? No. But neither is giving kids like my two 11-year olds, who are not yet able to be vaccinated, no choice but to go to school surrounded by their peers, none of whom are vaccinated and many of whom will have unvaccinated, anti-mask parents. How do school districts think children are going to learn with that constant anxiety looming over them? How is that conducive to education? It isn’t.

Not all kids will experience this anxiety, and I respect that, but for those for whom it will, families should have a choice for at least the first half of the school year. If things improve for good, phase it out in the second half of the year. But with increasing transmission, and a population that can’t yet be vaccinated, it is unconscionable to not provide a choice.

It’s not too late for schools to do the right thing.

Scott Gagnon

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