BERYL, Utah — Escalante Valley Elementary was visited by a special guest Friday as students prepared for winter break with their families.
Escalante Valley Principal Allison Drake told St. George News Santa Claus, who visits students each year before they are let out for winter break, got an upgrade this year as one of Southern Utah University’s aviation pilots brought him to the Iron County school in a bright red helicopter.
“It was a Christmas miracle,” she said. “It was lots of fun.”
On the last day before the two-week holiday break, students in kindergarten through third grade participated in an all-day rotation where they visit classrooms to sing carols, played games and read stories while wearing their pajamas to school. While school administrators were planning one of their busiest days, they factored in Santa’s 30-minute visit and began preparing for his arrival.
When it came time to welcome one of the most well-known figures in the world, school officials announced over the intercom system that a very special guest would be touching down on the premises soon and asked teachers to escort their students outside.
As students and teachers made their way outside, Drake said they could hear the helicopter approaching and the kids began to jump and squeal in excitement.
“The kids were super excited,” she said. “It was cold, but that didn’t stop them. They didn’t complain, and they didn’t want to go back inside the building, either. They were happy to be outside.”
The red helicopter circled the school a handful of times while Santa waved at the students from the sky before landing. Santa climbed out of his upgraded sleigh with a bag full of candy-filled plastic candy canes donated by Dixie Power, giving the candy to the students as he spoke with them about their Christmas plans and lists.
Administrators gathered each class in front of the helicopter with Santa for a class picture before his departure.
While students interacted with Santa, his helpers infiltrated the school and delivered stockings to each student, which were filled with help from Brian K. Tavoian Family Dentistry and a Cedar City church group. Students returned to their desks after Santa hopped back into the helicopter, surprised to find more gifts and sad to have missed seeing elves wandering the halls.
Drake said events like this are important for the students and the teachers. Escalante Valley is a rural elementary school with more low-income students than other schools in the area. During the holiday season, it can be hard for parents to make celebrations special, so Drake said the school steps up to do what they can to make memorable moments for its students.
“It’s definitely one that will not be forgotten,” she said. “When the helicopter was coming in to land, I had a tear coming out because to me that’s what Christmas is or should be about.”
Moments like this have been made possible by increasing cooperation between schools and communities, Drake said. Each member of staff is vital to helping administrators pull off magical moments for students. Employees and parents at Escalante Valley Elementary have a common goal: to make every moment count.
The Iron County School District has a theme that schools follow each day as they help students progress from grade to grade, “every child, every day, whatever it takes.” Drake said at Escalante Valley especially, teachers are actively working to ensure this is the mindset they enter their classrooms with each day.
In October, Escalante Valley Elementary partnered with seven law enforcement agencies from around the state to help its students celebrate Red Ribbon Week. During the celebration, Intermountain Healthcare Life Flight also conducted a Landing Zone Training on the school’s grassy field, allowing the students to take a closer look into the helicopter once it landed.
Drake said there aren’t anymore aviation surprises in the works, but school officials are all ears.
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