GOWANDA – On Friday, exactly three weeks have passed since class at the last Gowanda Central School in the session. While many have discussed the challenges faced by teachers when creating an online curriculum, at home, Principal Carrie Dzierba Elementary School has focused on the unique challenges facing its students.
“With us having the youngest children, we know that they are experiencing tremendous difficulties because of losing their teachers and friends,” Dzierba told OBSERVER in a telephone interview. “They lose the normality of what we do. We want to make sure they know how much we miss them and think about them, so we want to do something special.”
While teachers have been checking with their students online and by telephone, Dzierba acknowledges that there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Because students cannot come to school, Dzierba, school social worker Carmen Muscarella, Ben Shields School Resources Officer and Gowanda Police Chief Dennis Feldman decided to bring the school to students in an attractive but safe way.
The group formed a parade – a car parade – for teachers and elementary school staff to drive their own vehicles throughout the community to share waves and smiles with students from a safe distance. “Dennis Feldman is a wonderful man,” Shields said. “Whatever we need, he is there. He puts a parade route together with elementary school staff and shares it with the public.”
Early last week, the district shared planned parade routes through social media and encouraged families to come out and wave as the procession went. “The most important,” district writing Facebook page, “There should be no groups gathering along the route so that social distance is maintained.”
On Friday morning at 10 am, teachers and elementary school staff leave the parking lot by car “Panther Pride.” Shields led the march, while Feldman and other officers “Leapfrogged” along the route to drive traffic. The march traveled along Route 438 and continued into the Seneca State area before turning to enter the village via Buffalo Street. In total, the parade covers more than a dozen streets and lasts about one and a half hours.
Michele Sprague’s parents took her two daughters to the parade. “My oldest is in kindergarten. This is a very confusing time for him and us, “ she says. “As we waited, we got trucks to beep and wave as they passed. There were two other friends there, and all of them were two cars away from each other … All the children near us jumped and waved and shouted at the teachers they knew. Most of the mothers cry. Many teachers too. “
Dzierba said, “That was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my career. My daughter is in the car with me. He recorded a video while I was driving – it was a tear jerker, for sure. People ran to the end of the driveway screaming, blowing kisses and waving. “
Shields also noted the extraordinary response from the community. “People who drive around are blocked by eager parades, waving and honking their horns,” he noted. “There is no anger or anger on the road – just support. Honestly, I like this place; the positivity is truly extraordinary. “
According to Dzierba, “Every constituent in our building is represented in the cars: from maintenance to food preparation to teaching assistants to teachers.” Shields said the procession of nearly a mile covered 70 vehicles – far from the 30 or so he had expected to participate.
He noted that the parade is an important impetus for both students and staff. “I’ve seen physical tears from staff because of this,” he said about closing the school. “Very often, people assume that people do things just for a salary. For the past five years working in the school district, friend, do teachers really care about their students. “
Dzierba agrees. “We just need to lift the real spirit,” she says. “You don’t know what you have until you don’t have it. That’s where we found ourselves. The general things we are used to doing and how much we take for granted the opportunity and freedom – we are certainly grateful for those things in our lives.
Shields, who has two children registered in the district, noted the strong role of schools in the community and that the effects of closure were felt by everyone. From sports events, clubs, concerts and dramas, “This is a lifestyle,” he pondered. “You take it for granted, even as a student, until the items are not there because the carpet is pulled out from under you. Many children work with me regularly, they are the first children to say,” I hate school. ” totally skipping school! This is really the essence of any small rural community. “
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