School bells are peeling across the south coast as the region's kids prepare to hunker down for another school year. Classes resume this week at the Gomes, Hayden McFadden, and Parker Street elementary schools in New Bedford. Most other schools in the region re-open next week.

The new school year will seem vaguely familiar to some returning students in that classes will be in-person from the get-go rather than via internet connection. For some of the younger set, this leaving home each morning will seem new and perhaps strange. They will get used to it. It's the new normal, remember?

What is not normal, however, is the fear that will hang over every classroom, fear perpetuated by the labor unions and politicians, not to mention the cable news networks: the fear that you might die before lunch. If those School Resource Officers don't gun you down during recess, certainly the plague will get you. You'd better wear your mask and keep your distance, buster. Fear sells. It works. Can going to school ever be the same again?

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Masks in the classroom are unhealthy and intimidating for young children. For those like myself with hearing issues, the masked face of a teacher can be devastating to a child's ability to learn. For young teens, unsure and unsteady, masks can crush confidence. Imagine asking the object of your affection to the dance while masked? It's difficult to look and feel cool and confident while wearing a blue surgical mask.

Kids, I am sorry for what an out-of-control society has and continues to put you through. This is your one shot at it, and we are crapping all over it for you. But don't worry, by the time you enter into a four-year college situation, there will be plenty of cry spaces and counselors waiting for you to help you cope.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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