SOMERS POINT — Danielle Don and her two kids, Logan and Skylar, sat on the concrete wall around the New York Avenue school Thursday with signs, waiting. Then they began to hear the honks.
A parade of cars decorated with signs, passengers waving, yelling hello and twirling noisemakers made its way down the street.
The Dons stood and waved back eagerly, broad smiles flashing across their faces.
“It’s been very stressful and hard to manage,” said Don, wiping away tears after the cars had passed.
Like most families across the state and the nation, the Dons have transitioned to remote learning as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools to close, businesses to shutter and workers who are able, to work from home.
Hoping to generate some much-needed school spirit during the shutdown of the state’s K-12 schools, teachers in Somers Point took inspiration from peers in Texas and hosted two car parades through the city Wednesday and Thursday.
“We just miss them, it boils down to that simple fact,” said Jennifer Rowe, who teaches seventh grade math and acts as an in-class support for English and science. “The goal is to show that we’re still here, we’re around.”
Rowe from Jordan Road School and literacy enrichment teacher Cindy Stafford from Dawes Avenue School organized the car parades.
“Watching a Facebook video of a school in Texas, I got the idea. It was a car parade of teachers riding through the neighborhood with a little girl standing on her porch,” Stafford said. “Her wave was so enthusiastic that it just brought tears to my eyes.”
Don said she wanted to come out and support the teachers because they have been there every day for the students.
“I think it’s amazing,” she said.
On Groveland Avenue, 5-year-old Antonia Phillip held a sign telling her preschool teachers she missed them. Her mother, Heather Martina, and grandmother, Leanne Martina, were excited to hear about the parade.
“It’s wonderful,” Heather Martina said. “It keeps the kids still in contact.”
Even residents without students were happy to see the teachers. Cardinal Peyton, who is not a parent, was inside her Exton Road home Wednesday when she heard loud honking coming from outside.
“I was just sitting on the couch watching Netflix when I started to hear a bunch of car horns from a distance, so I walked outside. They had poster boards with the teachers’ names on them so the kids knew which car their teacher was in,” Peyton said. “I think what these teachers did was a much needed reminder of the humanity and kindness that still exists in the world, even during such a difficult time.”
Stafford said the parade is a fun, positive way to get out of the house, safely, especially now since events and activities are canceled or moved online.
“It just felt good to have something on the calendar to look forward to that was different from our routine,” she said.
The teachers are hoping that seeing their students’ faces, and vice versa, will build positivity at a time when the news during the COVID-19 pandemic has been dire.
“I’m so proud of my staff for wanting to do this,” Somers Point Superintendent Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder said. “They’re trying any way they can to reach out to their students and the parents, and let them know we miss them. We all miss the kids.”