Love from a distance
It was bumper-to-bumper appreciation between Blooming Prairie teachers and students on a beautiful Thursday night.
Vehicles completely encircled a square block that includes the school and its playground.
The appreciation parade started at 5:30 p.m. and lasted until 7 p.m. Students and teachers carried the same message: "We miss you."
Blooming Prairie's teaching staff and students have been participating in distance learning since March 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some appreciative parents arranged for a Teacher Appreciation Night, which saw most of the teaching staff, homemade signs in hand, waving to students and parents as they passed by on this late sunny afternoon.
A sign for each of the BP Elementary School's teachers had been placed on the school's front yard one week earlier. Now, on this weather beautiful night, teachers took their signs and placed themselves in position on the school sidewalk.
Most of the parade participants were in vehicles but some were on bicycles, in strollers, or on foot.
Third grade teachers Kristin Romeo, Alli Schmidt, Becky Johnson and Angie Avery created a "You Are My Sunshine" theme with a banner, special t-shirts and sunshine balloons.
Pre-schooler Morgan Slowinski showed off a banner she had created. It read: "Ms. Laura, I miss you!" It was signed by Morgan with love.
Riding in a bright red muscle car, the Johnson family expressed their message, "I miss you, Mrs. Lea." Kevin Johnson was the driver, accompanied by wife Tammy and grandchildren, Abbey and Brady Johnson. Oh yeah, there's a little puppy in the car, too.
"It was an awesome turnout," said Principal Jacob Schwarz. He was informed that 85 vehicles, some pedestrians and bicyclists were also in the parade. Traffic was actually stopped many times as the parade continued around the school.
Schwarz said the parade was originally planned for Wednesday night, May 13 but was moved to May 14 because of a threatened rain.
"It was a bitter sweet night because teachers are missing the kids, and the kids miss them," remarked Principal Schwarz. "It gave me goose bumps," Schwarz confessed while standing on a corner of the elementary school campus.
"It was good for the soul," Schwarz said, explaining that many teachers and students had not seen one another for weeks and were only connected by electronic devices.
Teachers, students and parents were "choked up and tearing up" when reunited after weeks away from one another.
Schwarz said families were drawn to the special night for social reasons. "The social part has been missing," Schwarz said.
"It's fun to step back and think about the relationship we have between staff, students and parents," Schwarz said.
It was a perfect night, attested teachers, students and parents.
Staff, students and parents now look ahead toward returning to school behind the four walls. "There are still so many unknowns," Schwarz said. He said the school is directed by the guidelines set forth by the Minnesota Department of Health and by the Minnesota Department of Education.
Schwarz says the normal keeps changing all the time. He said he is "100 percent confident" in the teachers getting the job done. He said families are flexible and extremely dedicated to education.
Schwarz said the appreciation day resembled a first day of school and a last day of school all rolled into one. "There were lots of emotions but it was all positive," he believed.