Editor's note: The following appeared in Rep. Paul Anderson's weekly newsletter on Aug. 16.

By State Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck

The opening of school is just around the corner and fall activities are getting underway. The timing is not good for an uptick of COVID-19 cases and, with that, talk of more regulations and mandates coming back, as well. Minnesota has done a pretty good job of getting its residents vaccinated, and our total is around 70% of those over the age of 16 having at least one dose.

School districts are in a tough place, with recommendations coming at them from both the state and the federal CDC. All across the country, parents have made their feelings known to their local school boards. No doubt, we’d all like to see our kids back in school, in person, five days a week. That should be the top priority. Distance learning is challenging, especially for younger students who aren’t real familiar with laptops or white boards, or whatever they used when learning from home.

It’s also more difficult for teachers, with some having to work with their students both in person and online. Some students have fallen behind. Whether it be from poor broadband access, a lack of supervision, or the fact that it’s just plain harder to learn when you can’t interact with your teachers. And then, there’s the social aspect of not seeing your friends daily and having many of the usual activities that are part of school life cancelled. Hopefully, those days are behind us, and we can stick with a more normal school schedule.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Some parents have said they will pull their kids out of public school and make other arrangements if their children are forced to wear masks, or if there is some kind of vaccine mandate. That happened to some extent last year, and probably will again if schools are forced by state or federal officials to follow specific guidelines again. Several area schools have announced they will be opening this fall with masks not being required, and I commend them for that. These are tough decisions, and consideration must be given to the fact that the students will receive a better education being in school, in person.

That’s why the timing of the uptick in cases of the variant COVID strain makes these decisions so difficult. They are made with the best information available at the time, but conditions can change quickly, and those decisions may need to be re-evaluated.