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editorial

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It’s difficult to comprehend that women didn’t always have the rights that they have now, and many of those rights were only gained a few short decades ago.

Imagine when women weren’t able to open a bank account, have credit cards or a mortgage without a man’s signature until the passing of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974. Considering a woman founded our media company in 1976 and still sits in the publisher’s seat, the thought is unfathomable to many of us.

One of the trailblazers who worked for women’s rights to manage their own finances and their own lives was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She accomplished this feat as the co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. The void her death leaves behind is immense. Let us remember all the work that’s been done and is still being fought for true equality. Now with her seat locked in political turmoil, we believe her legacy needs to be respected more than ever.

What we need to remember is sometimes the champion for equal rights, Ginsburg, needed to represent men to work toward the goal of all being treated equally. In 1972, Ginsburg argued in front of the Supreme Court when she and her husband represented Charles Moritz, a bachelor who was unable to take a tax deduction for taking care of his sick mother as a woman or a divorced/widowed man would have been able to do. It was an ingenious tactic, showing how any discrimination on the basis of sex was harmful to the whole, rather than one select group. Throughout her career, Ginsburg was the champion of many causes that have had a positive effect on both men and women of all colors and orientations. She believed that everyone has a right to vote, to access health care including birth control, to obtain an abortion, and that when two people of the same sex fall in love, they have the right to get married just like everyone else.

Replacing Ginsburg will be no easy task, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. President Donald Trump (R) said he will nominate a woman to the seat and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is eagerly waiting in the wings for the process to begin, despite arguing in 2016 that Supreme Court nominees should not be put to the bench in an election year. He and other Senate Republicans did not even hold a hearing for former President Barack Obama’s (D) court pick Merrick Garland that year. It’s the kind of House Rules situation you would expect more from a shady casino owner than the highest legislature in the land. It’s the kind of political skullduggery that does irrevocable lasting harm to democracy itself.

Locally, vigils held by two separate left-wing groups on Long Island’s North Shore have called for Ginsburg’s replacement to wait until after the election, and we’re inclined to agree. The dangerous precedent the U.S. Senate has engendered goes well beyond politics, but to the heart of democracy itself. There cannot be one rule for one party and another rule for the other, effectively eschewing several basic tenets of the Constitution.

There is a reason Ginsburg held on for so long, much longer than any of us would have stayed in such a stressful and high-profile position despite having five bouts with the cancer that eventually led to her death. One of her last statements dictated before her death was, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

The American value of equality for all is one that seems to be lost in our divisive times. We must honor Ginsburg’s legacy by remembering this ideal by moving toward the future and not slipping back to the 1950s where it was believed that women were only capable of being, as the saying goes, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. If that were true, we would have never experienced people like RBG.

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When Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the 30-member police reform task force last Wednesday, Sept. 9, there was not much in the way of fanfare for what should be a big moment for the general police reform movement.

Like the sound of a flat trumpet announcing the arrival of the king, it did not create any kinds of sensation other than pursed lips and a general groan from the community at large.

The news has left people on both entrenched sides of the police debate uncomfortable. One side probably thinks it is a dangerous waste of time, the other believes it to be an attempt at lip service, one piloted by the same people advocates accused of sustaining bad practices within departments.

The muted and sometimes hostile response to the new task force is likely due to how long it took the county to actually release its own plans. It has been over three months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) released his first executive order mandating that the government actually looks into this. Police reform advocates have hounded his heels since then but the county exec stood mum. Perhaps he, like others, was confused by what the county should have been doing to prepare for what is likely seen as another unfunded mandate from New York State.

But this is bigger than that, or at least, it should be. Bellone and other police officials should have been upfront about what they were going to do and how they would do it. At least then they wouldn’t have been in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation as they are now. Especially because without a plan, Cuomo has promised municipalities’ police departments could lose state funding.

Suffolk County police officials throughout the entirety of the police debate have touted recent advancements in anti-bias training and department reform that was happening even before Minneapolis man George Floyd was killed at the hands of police.

And to say there haven’t been significant efforts would be a disservice to the several notable people within the police department who have strived to increase inclusivity and enact change for the better. Most times, however, it’s better to let the people themselves tell you if that change has been enough, rather than just sitting in the echo chamber that is bureaucracy.

The 30-person task force is effectively evenly split between Suffolk County officials/police reps and other religious, racial and community groups. This disparate set of characters plans to hold eight meetings, one for each precinct plus the East End, then using another large survey the county has announced alongside the task force, craft some sort of policy plan.

The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association will of course advocate for no changes to police budgets or personnel. Their leadership has been staunch supporters of Blue Lives Matter rallies and have routinely decried any and all Black Lives Matter protests, even though in the county the vast majority have been peaceful and civil. That’s not to say police don’t have the right to speak up for themselves. We know just how much work goes into serving a community as an officer — from the holidays not spent with families to the danger they put themselves in every day. But we need to listen to communities, especially the large communities of color, for whether they feel police actually treat them the way many of us on the North Shore feel we are positively reflected.

We at TBR News Media think there should be a minority report, or potentially multiple minority reports, to go along with whatever result gets crafted before the governor’s April 2021 deadline. That way we can see what was left on the cutting room floor and, more importantly, how either police reps or reform advocates feel things should be done if they had their way.

It’s time to stop thinking of this task force as an afterthought and move toward some consensus that leads to real change.

Labor Day, back to school, the 19th anniversary of 9/11 — these days had consequences before. But in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, they mean that much more — they have to. They show how it’s no longer enough to be complacent and let the issues these days represent pass us by.

We can’t pass by Labor Day without thinking of the thousands upon thousands of people out of work. We have to remember just how much toil people in our local food pantries and soup kitchens are putting in to help the rising number of food insecure families across Long Island.

We bustle around and shop online for any Labor Day sales ignoring the purpose of the day is to not only celebrate organized labor’s accomplishments in gaining things as welcome as the five-day workweek, but to offer the future hope of additional compensation and relief to the millions who struggle even while working full time, too many times in more than one job.

We have to be able to come out of this pandemic with a new perspective. When those who were considered “essential” such as those who worked in supermarkets or other low-wage service industry jobs were not being compensated for the risk they put both themselves and their families in, we know there needs to be another look at allowing people to make a living wage when working full time.

On Tuesday, most of our North Shore schools reopened for in-person instruction for the first time since March. Parents walked their children to the bus stop, or more than likely drove them to school, with a great feeling of hope but likely some foreboding. Many stood at the bus stop in masks. At schools all across the North Shore, cars waited in long lines before finally letting their kids off, in some cases a faculty member waiting to take their temperature.

This is not going to be easy. Already we’re seeing the logistical issues of how tens or even hundreds of parents will drop off their students all at once. School districts need to iron out these issues, and parents, for their part, need to be patient while that is worked out. Though districts have been planning for this eventuality for months, no plan ever survives first contact, as the saying goes.

But parents must also recognize the fragility of the situation. All it takes is one slip up, one instance where the regional infection rate spikes above 9% and schools will once again shut down, as required by New York State. We can’t relax on any of our mask or distancing efforts, and this especially has to be reinforced to our children. As much as many parents don’t like what school districts have planned, even a hybrid model is better than full remote learning only. We have to think of the parents who work full time and have nobody to be home for their young children to either take care of them or make sure they’re learning properly.

As we look to commemorate 9/11, we see many events hosted by our local fire departments are not available to the public. Some have taken the option to use livestream instead, but fire departments have made the bold and correct decision to try and limit as much extra contact as possible. After all, many of the firefighters and EMTs at these departments were on the front lines not two months ago. They know better than most of us the toll the virus takes.

Let us also not forget the hundreds of people with lasting health impacts of being there when the towers fell 19 years ago. Those people are still around — folks like John Feal of the FealGood Foundation that continue to support rescue workers and other volunteers deserve our respect and backing.

This is a time that reminds us to work together in all these regards. Consequential times require conscientious action, and we believe our communities have the capability to make the right choices.

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We’re not going to lie to you. We know this school year is going to be a tough one.

If the end of the 2019-20 academic year has taught us anything, it’s that getting an education during a pandemic is difficult. Watching parents rally across the North Shore has also shown that not all parents agree with their districts’ plans for the new school year. Some want more in-person learning, while others want options for keeping you home instead.

While it’s imperative for parents and school administrators to work together to provide the best education for their children, for students the most important thing on your minds should be getting that education while staying healthy.

We know some parents feel that their children may have fallen behind during the few months schools went fully remote earlier in the year. All of a sudden switching to remote learning left many districts scurrying to figure out how to best utilize this type of e-learning. While some said they excelled at it, others very much did not.

No matter how you’re returning to school, it’s important for you to raise your hand if something doesn’t make sense whether it’s regarding a lesson or even how to follow public health guidelines.

It can be hard sometimes for a student to admit they don’t know something, but now more than ever it’s important to take control of your studies and your health. Every child has dreams for the future, and it’s the school’s responsibility to help them obtain those goals. So, to students, we say, “Speak up!” Let your parents know how you’re feeling about how things are going, or touch base with a teacher or guidance counselor.

For those who are attending in-person classes, we know you’ll have to handle new precautionary measures such as social distancing, wearing masks when it’s not possible to stand 6 feet away and having temperatures taken upon leaving the house or entering the school. We know a lot of responsibility has been put on your shoulders. What do you do if you see someone not complying? Speak up.

It’s hard, we know. Bullying is a bigger problem than ever so you may not want to call attention to yourself. But with some New York colleges open for only a week or two, we are already seeing some temporary closings, including SUNY Oneonta which at the beginning of the week reported 177 COVID-19 positive cases since the start of the fall semester with 44 students quarantining and 65 in isolation on campus. The guidelines are to help keep you and your loved ones as healthy and safe as possible. It’s imperative to realize that someone can be infectious, even if symptoms aren’t being shown.

We know this is a lot of responsibility to put on young shoulders. But as journalists that have been fortunate enough to interview many of the students in our coverage areas, we know the depth and breadth of the intelligence and empathy of our youth.

To those who will study for hours despite not having immediate access to teachers, and to the student-athletes who continue to practice alone on the field or on the lawn with their parents, we see you. We know you got this.

Our editorial staff also wants to let our young people know that we’re here for you. If you see a persisting problem going on at your school, email us at [email protected], and we’ll look into it. You can even share with us your feelings about navigating these new waters in a letter to the editor to be published right in this very newspaper.

It’s going to be hard, but we’ll get through this together.

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We’re a small paper, really a small company, and just like so many small companies, the pandemic has done a number on us, except for an explosive growth on the internet. That’s how it is, and if you’re reading this, we cannot fully express how much we appreciate your support, even if it is just picking up this paper to read it.

It’s such a little thing, but knowing somebody is there holding our words in your hands is the reason we get up every morning to do this. To know we might be impacting somebody on a weekly basis is enough, or it should be enough.

We write about the small things. The small town government — towns, villages, school districts. We include the small donations to local nonprofits or our libraries, veterans groups, and on and on.

It’s easy to say we just report on what’s happening, that we exist to regurgitate the facts of what somebody said at a meeting, or give you statistics about who is running for what public office.

But more is needed. Humanity can’t subsist off of data points. Democracy can’t continue without somebody to put facts in context.

That is why we enjoy giving you profiles of people doing extraordinary things, from young people fresh out of college working on their own farm seven days a week to a financial adviser who supports the art community on the North Shore..

Because those stories do more than offer interest and escape from day-to-day drudgery, they offer something much deeper, a shared sense of empathy and community.

If we can break through the veil into each other’s lives, understand the hardships of other people, find that they have so much more in common than they don’t have in common, then that helps bridge divides, builds upon that universal sense that humanity itself is a sacred thing.

We cannot let partisanship craft our belief systems for us. Something that should be as universally understood as the need for the means for people to vote outside of polling places has become yet another red or blue issue. What does it matter if not what political aisle you shop for your beliefs, the end result should always be to at least attempt the betterment of the biggest number of people, and to add support for those who fall through the cracks like water drops through and open hand.

We cannot and should look at something like the COVID-19 pandemic without noticing how it disproportionately impacts people with fewer resources. Those with jobs in service industries, those that pay little and are staffed mostly by those of limited means, were much likelier to get the virus during the height of its spread through New York. It impacted communities of color such as Brentwood and Central Islip, whose school districts are largely Black and Latino, and had many more cases, even considering size, compared to our North Shore communities.

You can argue what is best for people, but really there is no mistaking empathy. Empathy is when local soup kitchens and food pantries along with many, many volunteers worked to feed people unable to provide for their family and themselves in the past few months.

Empathy is when a local volunteer animal rescuer takes away some abandoned roosters knowing the only other likely fate for the birds is to be hit by a car or eaten by a predator.

It’s not enough to know why these people do what they do. We must look at both them and at their shining hearts as well as the social reasons those things happen. That is what we do, and as we fight to keep reporting amidst a backdrop of decline for the entire newspaper industry, we hope that our readers will find that a communal sense of empathy is the best, and perhaps the only way to survive in times like these.

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Who uses the post office? In 2019, 143 billion pieces of mail were sent to 160 million delivery addresses, with more than 31,000 offices being operated.

Baby boomers and those who live in rural areas rely on the USPS to receive prescriptions and social security checks as well as pay bills more so than other demographic groups. But in a presidential election year, especially one during a pandemic where many are hesitant to cast their votes in person, mail-in voting could be what allows so many the chance to participate in democracy.

Perhaps more importantly, it could possibly show just how amazing democracy can be if even more people are enfranchised.

It’s been evidenced at the very local level. Residents were sent ballots for their school district budgets and trustee elections directly in the mail. What we saw was a massive increase in the numbers of ballots cast amongst all our local districts. The Smithtown school district, for example, saw over 8,000 more people cast votes compared to 2019 numbers.

This is an example of how granting easier access to voting will result in more votes cast. How important is this? In 2016, only 58.1% of the voting age population cast their ballots, and that was during a presidential election year.

Despite fears that mail-in ballots will somehow lead to voter fraud, experts have consistently said that states that have mail-in voting systems have not experienced notable numbers of fake or false ballots more than states lacking such systems..

It is in everyone’s interest to have more people participating in democracy.

And with the White House’s constant refrain that voter fraud could occur if mail-in ballots are widely used, and with the administration having threatened to withhold funds from the USPS, it’s necessary to cast a critical eye on the controversial changes made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. His decisions have led to overtime cuts, reduced post office hours, changes to delivery policies and the removal of some sorting machines. The changes have already led to mail delays, including on Long Island, according to the Letter Carriers Local 6000, a L.I. and Queens-based postal union. Though DeJoy announced Aug. 18 he would be “suspending these initiatives” until after the election, we must remain alert. The postal agency itself has said delivering an estimated 80 million ballots nationwide will be difficult.

Instead we should now focus on making sure the process runs as smoothly as possible. It’s true that the New York and California Democratic primaries were hurt by an inefficient infrastructure that was not made to handle the mass influx of votes. Reports say that thousands of such votes had to be discounted because of flaws by the people who cast them.

The goal of the Suffolk County Board of Elections should be to increase its capability to handle what will likely be a mass influx of both mail-in and absentee ballots. Better yet, it should be incumbent on the federal government to supply local municipalities the capability to handle the new influx of votes. 

We agree with Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3), who at a press conference Aug. 17 said we needed an “urgent call to arms to break through all the noise and focus on protecting not only the security of our elections, but the integrity and reliability of the United States Postal Service. Lives, livelihoods and our democracy are at stake.”

We need to extend this thought process to the efficacy of our democracy itself. Improving people’s ability to vote should be a no-brainer in a society such as ours. We must cut through partisanship and remember just how important it is that every person should have a voice in government, despite — or more so, because of — the ongoing pandemic.

A car crushed by a tree in Miller place after strong winds by Tropical Storm Isaias. Photo by Kyle Barr

We imagine that if you’re looking into your fridge and not finding any cold air coming out, that you’re smelling the milk starting to curdle and watching the meat in the freezer becoming wet and discolored, that you likely don’t want to hear anything else but the sound of heads rolling.

One has every right to be angry when the response to a storm like Isaias has been so clumsy. Reportedly, PSEG Long Island was ready for the storm but communications were not, and they continue to be confusing and out of touch. While the utility company puts out daily or even bi-daily releases about numbers of people who have gotten their power back online, the web and mobile app for reporting outages still show too many people lacking power. Either the reporting app is broken, or the lines of communication have broken down.

For a utility that promises so much of its reporting technology, residents would expect some timely communication, at the very least. Residents had a constant refrain over the past week that the timetables for when their street’s repairs would be done kept getting moved. A week after the storm, by Monday, 17,000 on Long Island still lacked power, according to the utility company, even though their own map showed at least 30,000 more potentially lacked any power out of the original 420,000.

PSEG has a lot to answer for, especially with the $40 million annual contract (plus incentives) that the Long Island Power Authority pays the utility company to handle Long Island’s electrical infrastructure.

Electeds at every level have come down on the utility company. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has requested an inquiry into PSEG’s handling of the storm. New York State Attorney General Letitia James (D) has obliged and will conduct an investigation, according to a Newsday report that was confirmed by PSEG. Cuomo has also threatened to pull PSEG’s contract.

Should PSEG be responsible for people’s spoiled food and other financial hits due to loss of power? The many people who lost hundreds of dollars worth of food and medicine would certainly agree, especially those who can ill afford to lose an ounce of that during a pandemic, when many have lost jobs and unemployment benefits. The company should absolutely buckle up and support the people who need it most, especially since we still do not know just how much the 18 heads of PSEG make in salary of their multimillion dollar contract with LIPA.

But the speed and readiness that officials were ready to pounce on the utility company displays a different sort of callousness, especially in an election year. To say PSEG has become a punching bag is too quaint of a depiction for how much politicians want to make easy villains out of complicated issues. Some politicians have made going after PSEG and LIPA the cornerstone of their campaigns. Some have called for the heads of each organization to resign.

But tackling the challenges of supplying power to Long Island takes more than a readiness to plant a boot on the back of whatever company was taped with a “kick me” sign.

Isaias will not be the last major storm this season. If we’re unlucky, there could be even worse storms that hit our little sandbar called Long Island. That is where our heads should be, shoring up the infrastructure to ensure PSEG’s response does not repeat itself and getting behind initiatives that can prevent widespread damage, instead of having more people ready to clean up the aftermath.

New York is right to move toward a future where the majority of energy comes from renewable technologies. For the sake of the future of our planet, we have no choice. More than that, we need to think about our planet with the ferociousness we do when our lights stop working. Hurricanes are unrelenting. We must be as well.

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Schools have been releasing their reopening plans — ranging from students attending full time to hybrid models — and many parents and teachers are buzzing with concerns.

We’re disappointed that some of our local districts did not reveal their reopening plans until the state deadline of July 31. We understand the massive undertaking it was to craft these plans and the number of people on committees involved to see it through, but many districts’ reopening data is long and convoluted. More effort can be made to present this reopening data in a digestible way.

It’s no surprise that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has not yet created a blanket school reopening plan across the state. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for our school districts during a pandemic. Each one varies in size and number of students, teachers and space available. All this, of course, with an ax hanging over schools heads with state aid potentially being cut later this year.

The same is true for within a school district. Each student’s family is different. There are those who legitimately fear catching the coronavirus to the degree that it has kept them in lockdown even after some restrictions have been lifted. And while some have the luxury of having at least one parent being able to stay home if the local district offers a hybrid model, other families will be unable to provide the supervision their child needs.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that schools across the country reopen as long as they put safety first. Cuomo, after reviewing the districts’ reopening plans, will be making a final decision later this week.  The governor has said that as long as infection rate averages over a two-week period stay below 5 percent, schools will be able to reopen to some capacity. Suffolk County currently hovers at around 1 percent. There is no guarantee that figure won’t increase in the future, especially considering the current case with states like California, which was heading in the same promising direction as New York until cases spiked to a current total of more than 525,000.

Here is the thing we have to understand, none of us will be happy. Nobody will get everything they want from current plans. In a normal year, every kid would be learning in school, desks spaced only inches from each other and halls crowded with kids.

A parent who relies on schools to watch their children while a parent or guardian is at work may not be able to afford a different kind of day care. Families that rely on school reduced cost or free lunches won’t have that option without a kid in school. Hybrid models only help with a portion of those issues, but it’s better than nothing.

Some parents ask why the district can’t provide learning options for students who stay home 24/7 while the rest go into their full-time or hybrid schedules. Districts are already hurting financially due to the pandemic. Many are taking from their fund balances just to afford the additional staff and resources needed to have some students in the classroom. Asking them to put further resources into the extra time it takes to help students at home may not be feasible for so many districts.

We are now in a situation where each family needs to look at their school’s plan and then adjust it to their reality. Districts should do all they can to keep residents in the loop on a consistent basis. Parents, for their part, must acknowledge no plan will be perfect. It will take both parties and compromise to get the best outcome for students while keeping the virus under control.

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Take the time for a second to think about all the things you know you can’t talk about in a public space.

Think about it hard. However much you like to talk to strangers, imagine what should happen if one dares to speak about the upcoming election. Envisage the shouting matches over recent protests. Have you feared what should happen if you kindly ask the person waiting in line at checkout to please put on a mask?

As reporters, we have seen just how reserved people can be on the hot-button topics of the day. Sending a reporter out to ask people their opinions on an issue such as the possibility of war with Iran back in January — remember when that was the big story of the day? —results in a paltry mix of opinions. Out of more than a dozen people, you may get one willing to speak their thoughts and offer their names on the record.

Yes, you’ll get more answers to the tame question of “what are you most excited to do this summer?” but so few people want their opinion shared. If you ask, the majority will say they do not want their thoughts laid bare for all to see on the internet and on social media.

Though we rarely share them, it seems the antipathy and staunchness of those same opinions is only hardening as time goes.

Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center in 2017 show the mean identity for being either strictly Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, has only increased over the past two decades. The partisan gap on issues such as immigration started with a percentage gap of little more than 10 percent has become 40. Worries about climate change have only become starker on the political line.

The thing is, most people know and would acknowledge said political polarization. Students at the top of their class at recent social distancing graduations like one in Miller Place spoke about that same political gulf. Indeed, everybody seems to confirm it, but at the same time, nobody seems to work to bridge those same divides.

People have made apolitical things political. Climate change is not a political issue. The debate has long centered on whether climate change is really happening. It is happening, it is being caused by humanity, and the debate should not center on the “is it” but more on the “what we need to do about it.” We on Long Island have to be acutely aware of it, because rising sea levels will impact us immensely.

This pandemic has also made such a divide even starker. Asking to wear masks, in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, has been transformed into an assault on personal freedoms.

This thought isn’t helped with the constant barrage of false info and conspiracy theories spread through social media, especially about the virus. Last week’s article about local social media pages cited a Pew Research Center report that a frightening number of individuals believe unproven conspiracy theories about the ongoing pandemic.

Indeed, with national politics being what they are, it’s often better to think about local issues. We at TBR News Media do our best to report on issues that impact us right here at home, issues of beach erosion, flooding, the state of our small businesses. Instead of basing the conversation on grander topics of political infighting, focus on what works or doesn’t work. These conversations can (though not always) be much calmer and sincere than anything concerning who’s behind will occupy the White House throne come Nov. 3.

Leave animosity at the door, and concern yourself with you, your neighbors and your community. That is where the best of us can be found.

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School districts and their students have taken the lead when it comes to a new normal, and perhaps it’s incumbent upon us to follow their lead in our regular lives.

As the coronavirus pandemic progressed, it became apparent to high schools and colleges that the end of the year wasn’t going to be the same for graduates. While institutes of higher learning accepted the fact that an in-person commencement was not going to be possible at the end of May, many school districts held on to the hope that maybe it would happen at the end of June for their students.

But then the pandemic wouldn’t let go.

So high school administrators stepped up to the plate to create alternative events to celebrate the Class of 2020. There were car parades and virtual ceremonies, and when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he would allow 150 people at commencements starting June 26, expectations increased.

Many schools had hoped that if they waited until mid or late July, commencement would resemble what it did in the past with all the graduates in attendance with their family members, just socially distanced and with attendees wearing masks.

However, it wasn’t to be. The guideline for the maximum number for graduations hasn’t increased. Schools quickly made the decision to stick with in-person graduation but split the Class of 2020 into several sections and held the events over the course of multiple days, allowing graduates to bring two guests each. Many schools had sets of three seats spaced out across football fields and lawns, and when it came time for the teens to get their diplomas, they would walk the stage 6-feet apart.

Students may not have been able to celebrate the day with all of their friends, families may not have been able to interact as usual — sharing memories or flashing a smile to each other — and the energy may have been more subdued, but at these events there was at least some sense of normalcy.

School administrators, valedictorians, salutatorians and class presidents presented their speeches at each event. There were still the laughs, the tears and the pride. There were hellos and even extremely quick photo ops, before attendees were ushered off the field to disinfect the chairs before the next group arrived.

The graduation ceremonies being held across the state are just a small step toward normalcy — however, they are significant. Just like the former high school students are taking baby steps toward their futures, the commencements show that we don’t have to live in fear in our homes if we put some thought in our moves like school districts have and proceed with caution.

As our children fearlessly move toward their futures — a new normal — let’s follow their lead. Just like theirs, our future may not look the same. We now need to reimagine social events and interactions with our family and friends, just like districts did across the state, but they have shown it can be done.

Look how considerate and thoughtful our school districts and students have been and compare that to the mass number of people who refuse to socially distance and do the simple favor of wearing masks when out on the town. We can remain disappointed that our lives have continued to be hampered by rules, but the other option is shown in the many other states that are seeing a staggering rise of cases.

We have learned a lot these past few months, and we still have more to comprehend, but we can take steps toward the future and a new normal. One day we’ll look back and realize how much we have learned and grown with safety at the forefront.