Last week, our school-age children and youth were once again thrust into center of the coronavirus pandemic when Gov. Kate Brown ordered new mask mandates for K-12 students.

Our students shouldn’t be there. Nor should our teachers and administrators.

Yet, they are, and the move creates new questions about local control.

Still, the new mandates potentially push students and teachers and administrators into the middle of what is essentially a cultural/political debate regarding vaccinations and the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.

There is also the risk that many parents — for various reasons — will keep their students away from education centers because they do not agree with the mask mandate. If so, that doesn’t help in our collective effort to provide our youths with the best education possible.

Another piece that complicates this new paradigm is that many children are still ineligible to be vaccinated.

Last week, Intermountain Education Service District Superintendent Mark Mulvihill said the new mask mandate puts schools “in the crosshairs” of an issue that has polarized America. He rightly was concerned about how much more pressure will be placed on teachers and school administrators to enforce a new mask requirement.

As a community, regardless of where we stand on vaccinations and masks, we should work to be as helpful as possible to our local schools.

We need to remember that the teachers, superintendents and other school officials are not responsible for the mask mandate. They, like all state agencies, must obey the orders of the governor. They don’t have the option to ignore her mandate.

That means trying to push them into the center of a political/cultural debate about coronavirus and vaccinations is wrong and won’t solve the basic problem.

Our students and their teachers should not be in the middle of this debate. However, as cases climb, and vaccination rates continue to lag, we now face a new coronavirus crisis. No one wants to return to the draconian restrictions instituted by the governor last year. We must all work hard to ensure we do not.

Meanwhile, we must give our local school districts, teachers and administrators all the help we can as they struggle to work through yet another coronavirus challenge.

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