School is back in session, and it is great to see students and staff moving about the building again.

With the COVID pandemic in full swing, this school year has started like no other during my educational career. There are many mitigation efforts in place within the Redwood Area School District.

When the planning team met this summer with new guidelines in hand, student and staff safety were at the forefront in the planning efforts to reopen the schools. With that came several changes to what our previous practices.

One such change at Reede Gray Elementary is our drop-off procedures. In previous years, students were allowed on the playground until it was time to enter the building. Most days that meant there would be close to 400 students on the playground in the morning. With our current guidelines, the gathering of large groups is not allowed.

This year students are allowed to come straight into the building upon arrival. With this change, the earliest drop-off time is 8 a.m. to allow staff time to prepare for the day.

Another change is the requirement of wearing face coverings or masks. These first few weeks of school, we have built in mask breaks where the class goes outside to get some fresh air and take off their mask while social distancing.

This practice has helped build tolerance for students and staff having to wear masks. I can tell you, the students are knocking this new safety procedure out of the park.

Now, you could argue, “Kids shouldn’t have to wear masks at school.” I would agree with you. They shouldn’t have to, but I will also be quick to remind you it is a state law and it is our current reality.

At Reede Gray we take this law serious, which is why I am curious as to why so many public places are not. I’ve noticed recently while shopping, many adults are entering stores without a mask.

In my conversations with medical professionals, it is my understanding there are a very small number of people who would actually be able to get a medical accommodation for not wearing masks.

I know some people will argue that their rights are being taken away or the pandemic is a political creation.

My article isn’t about politics or someone’s rights. It is about keeping children safe and in school.

That is why I choose to wear a mask.

I hope you will join me in this effort to keep children learning.

- Paul van der Hagen serves as the principal for Reede Gray Elementary School