Something we should all agree on is safety of students and staff must be the top priority as schools prepare for the upcoming year.

No matter your stance on wearing masks, the coronavirus pandemic is real and spreads more easily with a lot of people in a limited space.

Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health on Friday shows Pittsburg County with 44 active cases, 171 cumulative cases, 124 recoveries, and three deaths.

With thousands of students and staff set to return to buildings for the upcoming year, we applaud local districts making choices to offer more protection from COVID-19.

Oklahoma State Board of Education members voted to not mandate and only make recommendations for COVID-19 protocols — leaving school districts to decide what they want to do.

Some districts made their own plans prior to that meeting last month.

McAlester Public Schools Board of Education members voted to require protective face coverings worn on campus. The district also announced multiple options so parents and students can choose between virtual, in-person, or a blended option for attendance in the upcoming year.

Kiowa Public Schools will discuss the issue on Monday before having a public forum on Tuesday to explain what they decide to parents and students. Canadian Public Schools officials continue tweaking a plan to reopen for the school year.

School officials have to make tough decisions in how to keep students and staff safe, what to do when there is a positive case reported at the school, prepare for all the precautions, and how to fund technology upgrades to offer virtual options.

A few districts across the state have moved courses online to start the year or postponed the first day.

It's unfair that the virus is taking away memories and sense of safety not just for students — it's done so for everyone.

But we ask that parents and students not lash out over protocols put in place to help protect students and staff.

Like we've said for months, history will show if we've over-reacted or didn't do enough. It's crucial we end up on the right side of that chapter in history.

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