As we go further and further into virtual learning, many schools are considering whether or not to return to in-person learning. Without question, parents, teachers and administrators are warranted in their desires to return to normal life as soon as possible. Virtual teaching and learning are challenging.

Students are missing out on time with their friends, sports, clubs and in-person interaction with their teachers. Parents are struggling to balance working from home while assisting their children with virtual learning or working as essential workers in a scary world. And teachers are putting in extra hours preparing new, innovative ways of reaching their students. Indeed, these are all challenges, but they are challenges we can work together to overcome. Yes, it is hard, but over the last few months, we have proven it is doable.

Now over nine months into the pandemic and with over 220,000 American lives lost, we must not forget how dangerous this virus truly is. After so many months, it is easy to get complacent or frustrated with the changes we must make in our lives, but we must keep our priorities on what is most important: the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and families.

The sad truth is, the pandemic is not getting better and America’s response to the pandemic is not getting better. In fact, it’s getting worse. Nine months into the pandemic, 31 out of 50 states are in the “red zone” with positivity rates exceeding ten percent and hospitalization rates are rapidly rising. Now is not the time to resume potentially dangerous in-person learning.

Recently, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned, “We are entering into a risk period.” The fall and winter months present a new set of challenges. As the weather gets colder, activity is forced inside, and flu season approaches, the sad reality is we are likely heading toward even more difficult times.

Therefore, we should not be hasty in our planning or our response. Although it is not ideal, as we are living under unideal circumstances, it is essential we protect our students by continuing virtual learning as long as the virus is on the rise. Will it continue to be challenging? Yes, but is our students’ health and safety worth the extra work and effort? Absolutely yes.

It does not take much digging to see how damaging a return to school can be for communities. Each and every day there are new reports of widespread outbreaks at schools. As projections indicate, this will only get worse heading into the fall and winter months. It is evident the virus will spread quickly if we return to in-person school and potentially even more quickly in the colder seasons. Now is a time for patience.

Patience with both our response to the virus and with each other. From one teacher to you all, I hear you, this is hard on all of us, but we must do what is best and safest for our young people and communities.

Michael T. Barry Jr. is a doctoral candidate in history at American University and an educator at Montgomery College and Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville.