SOUTHINGTON — It's been more than a week since students and teachers have been in their classrooms, with schools closed as a precautionary measure to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, on Tuesday morning, a motorcade of teachers and staff from Thalberg Elementary School drove along the streets where their students live. Teachers held up signs, waved pom poms, honked horns and banged cowbells, as they drove past students' homes.
Students and their families, who had anticipated the motorcade,gathered on their lawns and waved back to their teachers.
“There was 43 of us,” Thalberg Principal Katherine Reeves said. “It was very well received. I have gotten many emails since I got back home. Our families were so thrilled to see their teachers. It cheered everybody up.”
Reeves said when school closed nearly a week-and-a-half ago, the plan then would be to implement a temporary distance learning program, with the goal of preventing learning regression until students and teachers could return to their physical classrooms.
Now it looks like that distance learning program will be longer term. Many students’ parents are working from home as well. So the motorcade was a roving pep rally to lift all their spirits.
“The other thing we wanted to do was encourage our parents, who have now been put into the position where they're working from home and teaching their children. We know how hard that is. We wanted to spread some cheer and work together,” Reeves said.
The motorcade was the brainchild of Thalberg math specialist Sabina Skarzynski. Skarzynski said she saw on Facebook teachers at a school in Illinois had decided to drive by their students' homes.
“And I thought, how awesome is this? You can see the love and support. The kids were so happy as their teachers were honking away,” Skarzynski said. So she pitched the idea to her colleagues.
“Instantly everyone was on board,” she said.
Because Thalberg is a large district, it required some organization before hand. The school's parent-teacher organization hinted to families “rumor had it that teachers would be driving by,” Skarzynski said. Then Reeves sent out a formal notification to families.
Skarzynski said at first she was a little nervous. But that nervousness quickly went away, as almost the entire Thalberg staff participated.
“The turnout was great,” she said. “We were all happy to see each other.”
Skarzynski said she thought it was a great way to bring some joy to families during what has been a stressful period.
“Everyone is feeling very stressed,” Skarzynski said. “There's a lot of new learning, with parents having to be teachers, plus juggle learning.... Acts of kindness and showing support for each other is really what gets us through, especially in times like this.
“I think teachers are trying to raise spirits as much as can. We have to keep kids' best interest in mind,” Skarzynski said. “Luckily we were able to pull it off.”
The idea may spread to other schools in the district.
Board of Education member Bob Brown, a former teacher in the school district, said the fact school staff chose to stop by their students' homes was “fantastic.”
“I think we have great teachers in this town,” Brown said. Despite the appearances of closed school buildings, he noted, “Our teachers and our administrators are working full-time. I think this idea was fantastic, riding around, cheering people up. It was wonderful.”