A socially distant parade

Benjamin Joe/staffA participant in Thursday's Newfane Central School District socially distant parade put on by the district's teachers. 

NEWFANE — Who says COVID-19 means you can’t have any fun? Thursday, teachers of the Newfane Central School District decorated their cars and drove in succession to extend their well wishes to their students with a socially distant parade.

Families stood at the edge of their lawns, taking pictures and cheering. Their teachers stayed in their cars, honked their horns and flashed their lights – some with signs painted on the windows – as they passed the small groups standing more than six feet away from each other.

“There was a social media post about Frisco, Texas,” said Molly Sheldon, an elementary school teacher in Newfane. After seeing the post which showed teachers waving at their students from the shelter of their vehicles while driving through neighborhoods, she said she thought it was a great idea, and went about organizing the parade among her fellow teachers.

“I think this is an unprecedented time for all of us, “ she explained. “Adults and children, as well. Nothing like this has happened in my lifetime, so I know it’s new for all of us. I just think that it gives something for the teachers to look forward to as well as the students. To be able to wave to them, and bring a smile to their face, and let them know we’re thinking about them – even though we can’t be in the classroom with them.”

At the start of the parade, Superintendent Michael Baumann was directing traffic around the elementary school’s car circle.

“It feels like that’s what I’ve been doing these last couple weeks,” he said and laughed. “We’ve been doing the food pick-up – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – and then the distribution of materials last week which was getting people to drive up and get their stuff (academic instructions). So, it’s been pretty busy.”

Sheldon said, in preparation for the parade, she got the entire school district’s bus routes and actually drove them, cutting down where she had to and taking a three-hour round-trip and turning it into an hour and a half parade.

On Facebook, Sheldon promoted the event with several other teachers and drew out the route.

By 11 a.m. the parade was well on its way including a fire truck, a military vehicle with a mascot panther standing on top, and escorted by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.

“I had no idea it was going to be so big, there was close to 100 cars here,” Baumann said. “I only have about 30 teachers here at the elementary building, so those are teachers from all over the district.”

“We have a great district and great students and teachers and staff and we just want to come together at this time anyway we can,” Sheldon said. “Even though we can’t really be together.”

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