PACKWOOD — The teachers and staff in the Pekin Community School District brought a smile to their students’ faces Sunday, April 5, when they hosted a “reverse parade” at the school.
In a typical parade, onlookers remain in one place as a column of people and floats pass by. In a reverse parade, the floats are stationary and the onlookers pass by them. At Pekin, teachers and staff decorated their vehicles with signs indicating how much they missed their students and encouraging them to stay strong and stay safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reverse parade was organized by the district’s curriculum director Luyre Sobaski. Elizabeth Bender teaches high school art at the school, and participated in the reverse parade. Bender said at least 80 cars drove through the parking lot that afternoon between 2-3 p.m.
“At times, it was backed up almost to the street,” Bender said. “Principal [Kim Ledger] was the first car, and she was blowing bubbles.”
Bender said the teachers and staff took special care to remain at least six feet apart from each other. She said that, while high school students mostly miss their friends during this quarantine, the younger kids genuinely miss going to school and seeing their teachers.
“I’d say that the cars that drove through were primarily students in kindergarten through third grade,” Bender said. “One thing I didn’t expect to see was that the students made signs, too. That was cute. The kids stood up through their car’s sunroof.”
Bender said it was a perfect day for a parade, too, nice and sunny but not too windy. She said other schools such as Washington have done reverse parades, too. Sigourney’s teachers held a parade where students stood in their front yards and the teachers drove by.
“That wouldn’t work in most other places because the kids are so spread out,” Bender said. “At Pekin, our school is in the middle of a cornfield.”
Bender added that some of the Pekin teachers used Sunday’s reverse parade as an opportunity to hand supplemental materials to their students. Pekin, like other schools in the state, is holding distance education courses for its students online.
“The thing is, everyone’s home life is different,” Bender said. “At Pekin, a number of families don’t have internet. I teach art, and it’s been a struggle to figure out what to put out because some families don’t have supplies. Some kids don’t have crayons on home, while others have full on oil pastels.”