Educators across the county have hosted “teacher parades” to encourage students to stay positive in the wake of school closures following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Conway Police Department led Marguerite Vann Elementary School educators through various neighborhoods on Monday to send love to students from a safe distance.
“We wanted to make sure our students knew that we loved and missed them but understood it would have to be from a safe distance. A teacher parade seemed like the perfect solution,” Barb Clardy, a fourth grade teacher at Marguerite Vann, told the Log Cabin Democrat on Wednesday. “It was amazing to see so many of our kids, their families and even curious community members along the way smiling and waving. Our hearts were so full by the end!”
CPD School Resource Officer Sgt. Chuck Townsend led the group in the Conway Public Schools-themed Jeep.
The school resource officer said he was proud of the school’s teachers for wanting to uplift their students.
“I was honored to be asked to participate in a small way in assisting the teachers connect with their students,” he said. “I praise those teachers and their school nurse who put this together.”
CPD spokesman LaTresha Woodruff said the parade was a unique opportunity for the city’s school district to keep its students engaged over the extended break.
“It was a fun and creative idea to engage their students during a time that has to be confusing and very uncertain for them. And having Sgt. Townsend represent your Conway Police Department felt great,” Woodruff said. “We want children and our entire community to know we care and are here for them.”
The parade began around 10 a.m. Monday.
The group made its way to several neighborhoods and apartment complexes across town, waving to students and their families. Many students prepared posters boasting their love for the district, their school and for their instructors.
Conway Public Schools spokesman Heather Kendrick said she was inspired by the faculty’s initiative to reach out to students in an interactive and inclusive means during this chaotic pandemic.
Having educators that aim to motivate students over spreading fear is what brings the district and its students together, she said.
“There have already been several images from this time of quarantine and shutdown that I know will remain with me and become part of the memories I share about this in the future,” Kendrick said Wednesday. “The teacher parade is absolutely one of those. Seeing our teachers’ smiling faces in their car windows waving to students and their parents in their front yards was heartwarming. I know this meant so much to both our students and teachers.”
The staff said its main mission was to remind students they were loved and missed.
“As a staff at Marguerite Vann Elementary School, we wanted to show our students that we miss them and are thinking about them,” instructional facilitator Tammie McClurkin said. “This transition has been hard for all of us. We decided to meet at the parking lot at school and drive through our neighborhoods and wave at our kids. It was reassuring to be able to see them and wave and honk!”
Seeing the children wave personalized, homemade signs and cheer on the school’s staff made the event special, McClurkin said.
“Several students made signs for us to read as we drove by,” she said. “It was emotional for all of us, but it made us feel more connected to be able to see those smiling faces!”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced earlier this month that all public schools would remain closed until April 17 to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus. Officials will reevaluate opening schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year at that time.