When the clock strikes midnight Thursday night, those of us who are still awake at that hour will let out a loud collective cheer not just for the arrival of 2021, but the end of a year like one we hope to never have to go through again.

Twelve months ago, as 2019 ended and 2020 began, most of us had never even heard of the coronavirus, now known as COVID-19. Little did we suspect that the pandemic that had its roots in China would have such a huge negative impact on our economy, our schools, our health and our lifestyles that many of us are  beginning the new year in worse shape than we were 12 months ago.

In sports, the Ashland Tomcats won the Class 3A state championship in football with an undefeated season but months before that, Ashland’s boys basketball team went 33-0, only to have its hopes for a state title end with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the Sweet Sixteen state basketball tournament.

Still, how many high schools can claim they were undefeated in two varsity sports in the same year? Of course, the cancellation of most spring sports because of the pandemic puts a damper on this year of great accomplishment for the high school my kids attended and for which my wife and I cheer.

As for other sports, this lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan never quite got used to watching my beloved team play in mostly empty stadiums. The same goes for NFL games.

Before the pandemic shut down most schools in Kentucky, my wife, a retired teacher, earned extra money by substituting regularly at Ashland Middle School. While that fact reduced our family income, we were able to pay our bills with little difficulty.

However, my wife joins many other skilled educators in being convinced the quality of public education in Kentucky and elsewhere has taken a step backward by the virtual learning forced by the pandemic. Some kids can learn just fine virtually, but for kids who are average achievers, virtual learning is not the same as being there in person.

At the beginning of this school year, my granddaughter, a sixth-grader at Ashland MIddle School, was really struggling because she not only had not met her teachers face to face, but she also did not know her classmates who had attended other elementary schools. When they were allowed to meet in school for a few weeks, her attitude and grades greatly improved. I hope schools will meet in person in 2021.

Personally, I am tired of spending so much time at home. The one thing that is good about this year is that I set a goal of reading (not just listening to them) at least 50 books during the year — I surpassed that goal so long ago, I'm not sure how many books I read this year. In fact, my goal in 2021 is to keep a list of the books I have read.

We did elect a new president in 2020. Now, if we could just convince the current president of that. His attitude is a major threat to our democratic form of government.

Here's hoping for a much better new year.

Reach JOHN CANNON at johnboycannon@gmail.com.

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