Even in this unusually fraught back-to-school season, with COVID-19 transmissions and hospitalizations spiking, there are reasons to celebrate — if carefully — students’ return to classrooms.

The dangerous Delta variant has rekindled fears of in-person instruction, but education and health leaders have diligently worked to make the return to class as safe as possible. The governor’s new mask and vaccination mandates were only the latest move.

The state Department of Health updated safety guidelines for schools earlier this month, reflecting the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School districts like Bellevue, where administrators and teachers’ unions clashed over last years’ reopening plans, have reached agreements or are nearly there.

Last Thursday, Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Education Association negotiators reached a tentative COVID health and safety agreement for final approval by union members and the school board, the district announced.

Most parents and students have had at least some practice in new routines like masking, distancing and hand washing, even if their districts only offered hybrid learning for a few weeks last spring. This fall, every Washington student will have access to valuable in-person instruction.

Even though the usual elation is tempered by caution, the start of school is, as Washington Association of School Administrators Executive Director Joel Aune said, “a very exciting, optimistic time of year.”

“Our administrators and our teachers are still super jazzed about getting kids back,” Aune said.

We cannot afford to be complacent — the fall semester may still hold a few surprises — but we should be confident, knowing that the pieces are all in place.