Students enrolled in Hardin County and Elizabethtown Inde­pen­dent school districts soon will be returning to classes as a new school year commences later this month.

Using the Kentucky Depart­ment of Education’s Healthy at School guidelines, considerable internal planning has taken place among principals and educators. Many discussions between teachers and parents have informed these plans. With all the details considered, school board members in both districts have approved student schedule options for the coming year.

Whether a student attends school in-person or participates virtually through a computer desktop or tablet, the coming return to class will be a new and unusual experience for thousands across the county. Among the many the changes this pandemic era will throw at our young people and those responsible for their education at school and in the home, for those opting to return to the school house, the logistics of getting students there and back safely have become more complex.

Considerable change has taken place in public education since the average parent was in school, especially for those of us who started our families at an older age.

From technology advancements to new teaching methods and everything between, it’s a safe bet to say parents older than 40 would find few things familiar in today’s classroom.

The ride in the big yellow school bus is one area that hasn’t changed. Every parent who was shuttled to and from school in one remembers what the ride was like. And in today’s virus-cautious climate, those memories of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on a bench seat in a bus filled with upwards of 60 or so other kids of various ages cause concern for parents.

Training has been provided to bus drivers outlining new safety procedures to be followed. Districts have reported that safety protocols will include taking temperatures, limiting seating occupancy at two per bench and 44 passengers per route and assigning seats so that loading and unloading occurs from the back to the front of the vehicle. Wearing masks, observing social distancing inside the bus and having plenty of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies for drivers to wipe everything down between routes will be part of the process, too.

These are sound plans. But that’s a lot of new responsibilities.

But health risks begin before climbing onto the bus. What about the bus stop? These sidewalk gatherings of students will be another potential risk.

Administrators, principals, teachers and drivers across the HCS and EIS districts – as well as the students and parents they serve – have an extraordinary challenge lying ahead. Time, energy and creative thinking has been invested in the preparation ground work already laid out.

With so many moving parts and the devil lying in the details, these are just two small areas where adjustment might be needed to make good planning even better.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.

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