Lincoln Elementary School teachers organize parade to see students – from a distance

JANESVILLE, Wis. – Teachers from Lincoln Elementary School in Janesville went the extra mile for their students on Friday, both literally, and figuratively.

Friday Evening, nearly three dozen cars left the school’s parking lot, and paraded through the surrounding neighborhoods.

Teachers like Hillary Cheever say, it’s a way for them to connect with their students, albeit from a distance.

“I thought, let’s all hop in our car,” Cheever said. “Our families are right here close to our school. For me personally I just need to see (my students) and know that they’re okay.”

Cheever, who teaches 5th grade, says she was heartbroken to learn her students would not get to partake in the usual traditions fifth graders enjoy.

“Fifth grade is a time with a lot of closure wrapping up with a lot of the kids,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘My gosh, they won’t get to do this, they won’t get to do that’.”

Parents say the transition from in-person learning to online school has been a challenge for them and their children as well.

“It’s been really hard for all of us,” said Ashlei Badtke, who has two children at Lincoln Elementary. “It was so sudden, which has been the hardest part I think.”

Now, schools likely face being “online only” for the remainder of the school year, as concerns of COVID-19 spreading grow throughout the nation.

“I don’t think quite any of us knew it was going to be to this extent,” said academic learning coach Carrie Mergen. “To go to where suddenly we had no school, then that secure safe place for kids was suddenly just gone,” she said.

During Friday’s parade, students stood in their yards, driveways and sidewalks. Some, like the Badtke’s, made signs with encouraging messages.

“We talk about missing our teachers and our friends a lot,” Badtke said. “There have been quite a few nights when (my children) cry and say, ‘I just miss them so much, when can we see them again’?”

Teachers with the school will begin online instruction on Monday. Deep down, teachers like Hillary Cheever know it could be some time before their classroom is back to normal.

“Joy and happiness to see them,” she said about Friday’s parade. “But once again, that sadness to know we won’t be together on Monday.”