From the Editor: What Does Back to School Mean?

Amber Keister has some fun with one of the apple pies used in this month’s cover photo shoot.

It has seemed odd pulling together this magazine, what is traditionally our back-to-school issue.

Usually by late summer, June’s joyous peals of freedom have faded into August’s languid sighs of boredom. Summer camp is mostly over, family vacations are coming to a close, and parents are shopping for pencils, pens and backpacks.

Children and parents alike are wondering, “When can we go back to school?” This year, they might also be asking, “When can I have my normal life back?”

But back-to-school won’t mean back-to-normal this year.

Because of the lingering threat of coronavirus, parents aren’t sure if they should return their children to the classroom. No matter the plan for in-person classes, children will be exposed to scores of potential contacts — teachers and classmates, but also the families of those teachers and classmates.

Is virtual, online school the answer? What about home-schooling? Maybe small group instruction, with three or four families forming modern incarnations of one-room schoolhouses? Will the children lag academically? With so many children out of school, is there even a standard benchmark to measure up to anymore?

And what about the parents who depend on schools to keep their children occupied while they are at work? If they still have jobs, many of these parents will be working less this fall.

In this hurricane of uncertainty, I have wondered if there was anything solid to hold onto. It turns out, tradition is pretty useful in times like these.

Every year, Cary Magazine highlights several Notable Teens. Usually recent high school graduates, these young people have distinguished themselves through innate talent, dogged determination and compassion beyond their years.

Their inspiring stories have given me something to believe in. Whatever happens, I have confidence that our kids will be all right. It is my hope that you will be similarly inspired.

Hang in there, and thanks for reading.

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