Teachers in Colusa County Unified School District managed to say both hello and goodbye to their self-isolated students on Friday, before an expanded shelter-in-place order went into effect at midnight prohibiting all nonessential activity and travel by automobile and foot.
Hundreds of students and parents – most keeping safe distances from people outside their immediate family to avoid spreading COVID-19 – waved to CUSDA staff as they drove through town.
The procession of about 50 cars was led by the Colusa Fire Department and included officers from the Colusa Police Department, Colusa County Sheriff’s Department, and California Highway Patrol.
For families watching from sidewalks in front of their homes, the event lifted spirits, but was bittersweet all the same.
Many said they knew it was likely the last time they would see teachers and district staff in person until school starts up again or officials declare the coronavirus pandemic has eased or passed.
Bettyann Coronado, a CUSD foodservice cook, stood with her son and grandson on Harris Street as she watched people she knew honk, wave, and cheer from the safety of their cars, before they turned a corner and drove from sight.
While unifying, the parade was a reminder that school and all end-of-year traditions have come to an abrupt end.
“I miss cooking – and I miss the students,” Coronado said. “It’s sad because we always looked forward to doing year-end activities with the kids, and we can’t do it this year.”
Coronado’s grandson, Brett Garrow, 7, a second grader at Burchfield, however, delighted in pointing out the CUSD staff he recognized as they drove by, including Burchfield Principal Rebecca Changus and Secretary Rosemary Hicks, but – like most boys his age – delighted most in the spectacle of fire trucks and police cars with their lights an sirens on.
But while Garrow doesn’t fully comprehend the reason why distance learning has replaced his classroom education, he understands that he misses his friends and that he misses being at school.
“I’ve missed more than a couple of days,” Garrow said, solemnly.
Although organized by Burchfield staff, Changus said the amount of participation from the entire school district was touching. The parade even made a last minute detour to go by the hospital to honk and cheer for “our true heroes:” the healthcare workers.
“The event united our Colusa community and filled it with love at the perfect time,” said Changus.
Afterward, Changus said she received heartfelt text messages from parents and staff.
“I really did not know how much I needed this parade,” wrote a CUSD staffer.
“The parade brought tears to my eyes from start to finish,” a bystander texted.
Changus said not only was it touching to see CUSD staff lined up to participate in the parade, but that the event would not have been possible without the support, involvement and leadership of the local fire department and law enforcement community. ■