Talbot County Public Schools will start bringing more students back into the classrooms starting Oct. 12.

The dynamic of when and how students physically come back to school is playing out in districts across the Eastern Shore and country. We have some friendly recommendations and feedback.

The key is for school districts to get responsibly moving towards physically reopening as COVID-19 situations improve. Students and parents should have the choice if they want to attend virtually or in-person classes. Medical, economic and mental health situations can vary greatly and having options between virtual and in-person classes should continue.

Some students might have grandparents or parents with medical conditions at home who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. Other students may have parents whose jobs and livelihoods are threatened or diminished because kids are stuck at home. Some high school and middle school students are having to take care of younger siblings and neighbors because they are all learning from home.

We know some teachers and administrators have strong feelings about when and how schools should be reopened. It is paramount that both groups of students are treated equally and fairly. It is also imperative that school districts are flexible and open-minded.

The COVID-19 situation could continue to improve and that should quicken efforts to reopen schools. Having kids at home is a strain for some parents and grandparents and their jobs. There are also too many households on the Shore without internet access. It is a long-term challenge for the Eastern Shore and needs to be kept in mind as school districts figure out reopening schedules.

But if the COVID numbers start to rise again schools will need to reexamine their plans and pullback on physically reopening schools especially to protect the health of students, teachers and staff.

We urge school districts and administrators to keep listening to parents and students in addition to teachers and ‘health experts’. We also need to see less politics around when to reopen schools — from both sides and from all quarters including teachers unions and parents.

TCPS plans are for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students who prefer in-person classes to return on Monday, Oct. 12. Students in grades 6 through 12 who want to return to schools will come back Monday, Oct.19.

Talbot schools will operate a hybrid schedule with in-person students back in school either on Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays.

Parents will get notifications of students’ schedules by Oct. 2. Masks will be required, students will have their temperatures checked and school buses will not have more than 28 students. TCPS sports teams are slated to start practices on Oct. 19.

Again, the key is for straightforward and common sense plans. Complicated and convoluted are not the correct paths. Students and parents need some sense of routine to optimize learning experiences as well as to juggle jobs and livelihoods with kids at home.

We will see more plans from more districts. Let’s hope they pay attention to best practices and smart ideas from other schools and that districts are listening to who they work for — parents and students.

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