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Be prepared: School is (almost) in session

Back to school — it’s a time of excitement, anticipation, anxiety, aggravation and stress. For children and parents alike, back to school means so many things.

Throughout the Harlem Valley, local school districts are doing their part to ease everyone into the new school year. The mechanics of getting our kids ready for the academic year are important — even if taken for granted — and range from meeting with instructors face-to-face to getting a lay of the land on campus to finding out about expected student workload. Figuring out transportation, child care and emergency contacts are other must do items on the back to school list. 

This year, parents also have to make sure their children are immunized, as New York state no longer allows religious exemptions. For parents who don’t subscribe to immunizations, it seems their only option is to enroll their children in out of state schools, as private schools in the state also fall under the governor’s order. According to the governor’s office, vaccines prevent children from getting infections in school and from spreading diseases to other children — important during an epidemic — and following the measles outbreak this year, it’s been a hot-button issue. That’s understandable, as there are plenty of arguments that vaccines are dangerous.

Beyond taking care of their physical wellbeing, students must be mentally prepared to take on the challenges school entails: the classwork, the socializing, the after-school activities and the athletics. Schools must provide proper instruction and strong leadership for students — making sure they learn what they need to learn for their grade level to a proficient, if not advanced, degree. 

There must be accountability at all levels of education, and incentives for teachers, school staff and administrators to mold young minds into successful and mature adults. And students, for their part, must put in an earnest effort to do their best, to study, to participate, to learn — to make the most of their school experience.

And that experience starts with providing for the community’s most basic needs. Schools must ensure student safety and welfare. For more on what the North East (Webutuck), Pine Plains and Millbrook Central School Districts are doing on that end, read this week’s front page story by reporter Kaitlin Lyle.

Then, of course, there’s teaching our young how to deal with peer pressure. It’s an unending issue, one that can bring both drama and trauma into the household and the school yard. The best we can do, really, is try to arm our children with the ability to use common sense, to be truthful, to be fair, to be kind and to be hard working. Teach them that their behavior counts — and that acting appropriately is as important at school as it is at home. Let’s try to instill a strong sense of self in our children, and hope that when it counts, they can trust their gut. 

Most of all, we just hope everyone does their part: parents and students, school personnel and community. It takes a group effort to turn out the best and the brightest. Once done, everyone reaps the rewards. Here’s to a successful school year — may it be filled with learning for all.