We all want our kids back in school for in-person education. It’s the best atmosphere for actual learning and teaching. Accomplishing those principle goals of education in the current climate of COVID-19 requires some sacrifice.

That means wearing masks in congregate settings, particularly where large groups of children — those under 12 — are unvaccinated. It’s not an unreasonable requirement unless you have an unreasonable view of what is happening right now.

But for too many — those who often have the loudest voices — that’s just too much.

You can’t have it both ways — unmasked and unvaccinated — not with the current surge in coronavirus cases, largely driven by the unvaccinated and children.

Do children get as sick as immunocompromised adults? So far, it doesn’t appear that way. But those children can spread it to unvaccinated relatives.

According to the State Department of Health, since Aug. 16 — the first day of school for some across Pennsylvania — there have been 8,127 COVID cases statewide among children aged 5-18. Almost half of that total, 4,043, were in the seven-day window from Aug. 21-Sept. 1. Of those totals, 125 Valley students have tested positive since Aug. 16, including 78 over the past week.

Those students all were or are out of school for at least a week due to current protocols, learning remotely again. Many classmates they came into contact with, are also forced to study remotely because they weren’t masked or vaccinated.

Consider the following three sentences from Danville Superintendent Ricki Boyle, sent to parents on Friday:

“Today at the Danville High School, we had one positive case, who wore their mask, and had 22 individuals identified as being in close contact. Because 12 of the students have been vaccinated and another four unvaccinated students wore masks, there were only six students who needed to be quarantined. If all of the students had worn masks, no students would have needed to be quarantined.”

Simple. Wear a mask, stay in school. Get vaccinated, stay in school.

So it’s frustrating, disappointing and frankly, inexcusable, to hear so many parents voice their displeasure with the latest mask mandate for schools and daycare centers.

We understand that leaders in Harrisburg said they would leave it up to local officials. But when most local officials didn’t act before classes opened and cases started to jump, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, the state’s Departments of Education and Health had to act.

This isn’t about stifling freedom. It’s about understanding kids learn best in person and the safest way to do that right now is with a mask. That might change in two months if emergency approval is given for kids under 12 and the surge slows as more students are vaccinated.

Right now, masking is the best option available, and one that’s proven to work.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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