Since last March, when both Dordt University and Northwestern College — and nearly every other school in the United States — made the difficult decision to go online for the rest of the spring semester, it’s been a hard season for our students, professors and staff members at both institutions.

As presidents, we consider northwest Iowa the ideal place for our schools, and we are grateful for the way people in our region embrace our missions, our students, and our campus events.

In the past week alone, many of you were blessed to watch — either in-person or online — one of the best rivalries in college athletics as the Raiders and the Defenders competed in both football and volleyball.

You have often told us how our students enrich your congregations, businesses and lives during their time on campus and after they graduate as well.

Our priority this fall has been to protect our students’ ability to be in-person on campus, learning and living together. But our campus communities are also part of the communities that surround them, so we can’t do this alone. We need your help.

As presidents of Dordt and Northwestern, we humbly make this heartfelt request to readers of this newspaper: Please wear your masks and continue to social distance as we’ve been advised to do by public health professionals.

We believe that these two simple actions will enable our communities to continue to host our students for the rest of the fall semester.

We’ll be the first to admit that our students aren’t perfect, and neither are we.

But wearing a mask and social distancing is, in fact, what we’re asking of our students every day, all day, both on campus and off.

And we both have been gratified by students’ willingness to comply for the sake of protecting their on-campus experience.

They are doing their best, and, on their behalf, we’re asking if you’ll do your best to help us bring Sioux County’s COVID-19 infection rate down.

As we continue to combat COVID-19 and head into flu season, we’d take it as a sign of support for Dordt, Northwestern and our students if community members embrace masking and social distancing with renewed determination.

We know you’re weary of living like this; trust us, we are too. But we believe keeping our students on our campuses and in our communities is a goal worthy of our collective efforts.

Thank you for all the ways you show love to both Northwestern and Dordt. Thank you for being communities our students and their families love in return. Thank you for considering our request.

Greg Christy is president of Northwestern College in Orange City and Erik Hoekstra is president of Dordt University in Sioux Center.