Madison Central Schools and Dakota State University have done an excellent job working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each school has had positive cases, of course. We would guess that no school over 1,000 students in the United States (perhaps the world) has not had the disease in its midst.

So if we can't judge a school's performance by its having zero cases, what factors can look at?

Relatively few cases. Both Madison Central and DSU have had only a few cases at a time, counting both employees and students. Neither has been in a situation where a mass breakout forced a school to shut down, as others have had to elsewhere. Statewide, more than 11,600 young people (under 20 years of age) have been infected.

Consistent policies. Both institutions went with a mask policy at the beginning of the year and have stayed with it. Isolation policies have been consistent. Compliance may not be perfect, but our observation is that it's better than we would have expected.

Communication. Both DSU and Madison Central have worked to communicate frequently and effectively with staff, students, parents and the community. We're confident that their efforts to be open about cases have prevented further spread.

Compassion. Policies reflect the necessity of taking care of a sick person's health first. We know faculty have worked to make sure infected students continue to learn and aren't academically penalized for their illness.

The pandemic isn't over, and both institutions have plenty of work yet to do. But they deserve our appreciation for working to protect students and employees to the best extent possible so far.

-- Jon M. Hunter