Photo gallery: ‘We can do hard things’; Teachers parade in support of their students

Teachers and staff from Santa Clara Elementary parade around the neighborhood in support of their students, Santa Clara, Utah, April 15, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Schools across Southern Utah have been putting on unique neighborhood parades in response to the statewide soft closure of K-12 public and charter schools. Led by teachers and administrators, school personnel have been decorating their cars and parading through their students’ neighborhoods to say “hi” from a safe distance.

Santa Clara Elementary teachers parade through the neighborhood, Santa Clara, Utah, April 15, 2020 | Photo by Lisa Nielsen, St. George News

Gov. Gary Herbert initially announced the dismissal of in-class schooling March 13. The original dismissal was supposed to last two weeks. The closure was then extended through the end of April and extended again Tuesday until the end of the school year.

In the Washington County School District, the original closure came just as they were dismissing students for spring break, meaning teachers didn’t get a real chance to say goodbye to their students.

“There was no real goodbye,” Santa Clara Elementary teacher, Cindy Davis, said. “How do you close your year out?”

For many schools, at least at the elementary level, part of the answer came in the form of organizing parades that let students and teachers see each other in person while respecting state social distancing mandates put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Please enjoy a St. George News photo gallery of several school parades following the story.

Santa Clara Elementary’s parade, which was held Wednesday morning, ended up being perfect timing, Davis said. Although teachers and administrators had started planning the parade prior to Herbert’s announcement Tuesday, Davis said holding the parade the day after will hopefully give students and parents the boost they need to make it to the end of May.

Led by Principal Burke Staheli, Riverside Elementary families parade through the school’s bus loading zone, Washington City, April 2, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Riverside Elementary, St. George News

While learning continues via online curriculums, and students and teachers connect virtually, Davis said she is already missing the in-person connection with her students.

“None of us signed up thinking we would be running a virtual classroom,” Davis said. “I’m heartbroken.”

For fifth grade Legacy Elementary teacher Holly Woolsey, being able to see her students in person meant a great deal.

“We were so sad when we heard the news we won’t be returning to school this year. We miss our students and being able to interact with them on a daily basis,” Woolsey said. “Being a fifth grade teacher, it is especially hard to know they won’t be coming back next year. Seeing them in the parade is the best thing we’ve done all month.”

Burke Staheli, principal at Riverside Elementary, offered similar sentiments.

“Yesterday and today has been really rough on the teachers,” Staheli said. “I have been doing this for 31 years and I have never seen anything like it. You just don’t realize the relationships we have with the students.”

Legacy Elementary students cheer on their teachers as they parade by, St. George, Utah, April 14, 2020 | Photo by Hillary Osness, St. George News

Riverside Elementary, who refer to themselves as “their Riverside Ohana (family),” held their parade early in April.

Rather than teachers parading the neighborhoods which encompass the school’s large boundary, families were invited to decorate their cars and drive through the school’s bus loading zone while teachers and staff stood on the sidewalk at an appropriate distance from each other and waved, Staheli said.

In his Wednesday morning announcements, which are posted to the school’s Facebook page, Staheli said he wanted the students to know that he thought of them all as family and that they would not be forgotten or left behind.

He also encouraged the students to continue to looking for and being the good in the world.

As teachers and administrators look for ways to help make the end of the school year memorable and important for the students, Davis said she hopes the parade helped the students to know that the teachers were still thinking about them and supporting them.

“It’s really important, I think, to know that we are all in this together,” Davis said. “We can do it. We can do hard things.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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