A not-so-bold pandemic prediction from Unity school Superintendent ANDY LARSON in the wake of the latest round of new mask guidance from the CDC:

“We will open for business on time at Unit 7, but what business will look like is TBD because I will make a wild statement and suggest that things will likely change again before we have the first child step into a building on August 18th,” Larson said Wednesday.

No area district leader was ready to announce changes to back-to-school plans on Wednesday, the day after the CDC advised “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

And while many others were feeling what ALAH Superintendent SHANNON CHEEK described as “frustrating, to say the least,” they opted to look on the bright side on pandemic day No. 504.

Along those lines:

One thing that hasn’t changed: In-person learning is still a go statewide. And that’s a win.

“Kids need to be in school, engaged, learning, with their teachers, friends and teammates and having access to the invaluable experiences that shape them and help them grow,” Mahomet-Seymour’s LINDSEY HALL said.

“Everyone, including myself, needs to take a deep breath right now and take a big pause — we’ve got three weeks before school starts; it’s all going to work out.”

A key word in the new guidance from both the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health is “recommendation.” Officials were careful to steer clear of the term “required” on Tuesday.

“The most recent release on Tuesday really does not impact our decision-making process,” Arcola’s TOM MULLIGAN said. “To me, it is the same guidance we have always had. That guidance is to look at local conditions and make decisions accordingly.”

Most area districts had plans that mirrored the one laid out at Monday’s St. Joseph-Ogden school board meeting: “strongly recommending masks for those students who were unvaccinated while at school, but requiring everyone to wear masks when on a school bus,” Superintendent BRIAN BROOKS said.

And now? Brooks said SJ-O is still digesting the new guidance, tracking the impact of the Delta variant and thankful that students will still be in classes from 8:10 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week.

“Our principal and I were talking on Monday and realized our seniors are the only students in our school building now who will have experienced what a ‘normal’ full school year in high school looks like,” Brooks said. “If we are still doing this next year at this time, our current juniors will never experience a full year of high school without some type of pandemic restrictions in place.

“That is incredibly sad to even think about as an educator.”

By now, districts are plenty used to hitting COVID-19 curveballs.

“We fully expect that as we get closer to the start of the school year and even during the year, CDC will make recommendations that will affect the plans that we have in place,” Rantoul High’s SCOTT AMERIO said. “We will then have to re-evaluate and adjust. Good thing we have had a lot of practice with that since March 13th, 2020.”

Added Monticello’s VIC ZIMMERMAN: “Our school districts proved last year that we can pivot as needed. If that means requiring masking for the district, a building or a classroom, we can do that as needed.”