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Parades help bring area residents together

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Alan Dale

Cedar County News

HARTINGTON — With area students mostly confined to their homes, as schools are shut down because of the coronavirus, area residents have used their vehicles quite a bit lately to show their community support.

Emergency services personnel decided to turn on their lights and sirens March 27 and parade through town, giving people a chance to get outdoors for a moment.

Local educators decided April 1 was a good time to see their grade school students in a different way.

A community cruise was also put on April 3 to give area residents another opportunity to connect without actually getting together.

Hartington-Newcastle School
Board member Candice Climer decided the April 1 event would be a good time for the children to get in touch with teachers who they missed and worried for so much, even if it was done in a way to make social distancing proud.

So Climer, a professor at Mount Marty college, and local teachers teamed up to create a parade Wednesday which included teachers lining up in vehicles and then taking a route that started at the corner of Hartington-Newcastle and Holy Trinity schools. The procession then headed downtown, turning at the Bank of Hartington where they circled back and wrapped up at the Skylon, with the Sheriff’s Department leading the way.

That path took them by neighborhoods where their young students were set up to say “Hi.” Then both parties were able to look at one another, wave and say hello as the children and their families looked on the parade of cars along the parade route.

“I hated calling it a parade because everyone thinks it’s a gathering,” Climer said. “What do you call it? I saw some of these happening on Facebook, with schools closing and people driving around in groups and waving at their students.”

It started out as a suggestion and ended up with Climer and area teachers organizing an event featuring students and teachers from all three local schools.

“I tried to keep the route pretty spread out so people could line up and not stay close to others,” Climer said. “It was a wave by. Teachers just waved and honked. That’s what the teachers and students needed.”

It was a bit emotional for many of the teachers.

“A lot of teachers said there were a lot of emotions because they miss them that much. My kids needed to see them, to make sure they were OK, and were at ease after they saw them,” she said.

Jennifer Kleinschmit, a para-educator at Holy Trinity School, had seen a Facebook video from Grand Island where they had done an educator parade and thought something similar should be done in Hartington.

Soon after, Climer and Monica Kathol reached out to Kleinschmit saying they hoped to do one, too.

“I sent an email out to my co-workers and (Holy Trinity Principal) Chris Uttecht and they were all on board with the idea,” Kleinschmit said. “Our students mean the world to us and it has been hear-wrenching as a teacher to suddenly have our normal classroom routines interrupted. It brought us all great joy to see our students during the parade and their eyes light up, too.

“My favorite part was when a group of my Holy Trinity students were cheering very loudly when they saw the pineapples and cross, I had on my sign, since I’m known as Mrs. Pineapple who teaches in the pineapple room. The parade was a very needed and welcome time of joy in these uncertain times.”

Kathol, a first-grade teacher, rounded up the elementary teachers from the Hartington-Newcastle schools to get them ready to get the parade going.

“It has been so difficult for teachers, staff and students to not get any closure at the end of the year,” Kathol said. “We spend over 800 hours with the kids. Our last day was class as usual without knowing it was the last of the year. We were already taking precautions with the virus and doing social distancing,” she said. “We couldn’t even give goodbye hugs or answer questions. This left a huge void in my heart. The parade was a way to fill that void a bit.”

The cumulative of about 40-plus teachers met at the school within their cars as they arrived on location. 

“It was a beautiful night,” Kathol said. “God was with us. It brought joy to our hearts. After two weeks after school closed and the uncertainty of opening up again, it was just heartwarming and exciting to see our kids and their families face-to-face and not through a screen.

“We’re missing them. A smile and a wave, coupled with sunshine, boosted everyone’s spirits.”

Climer said for the society and modern teachers having to go through this, they couldn’t have a better group of kids than the ones the country is currently seeing grow up in front of its eyes having taken up the mantle of playing nation’s protectorate.

Climer’s daughter, 11-year-old Emily, said the kids just wanted to check in and make sure the adults were OK as they proceed to now be taught at home.

“It was pretty important to me because I got to see all my teachers and some of my friends were there,” Emily said. “I was just missing my teachers a lot. My mom and dad would teach me something one way and my teacher would teach me a different way with more activities because they would know how to do it.

“Beforehand I never thought I would miss school that much … we care about the (adults) more to keep them safer.”