While schools can't hold typical end-of-the year events because of the novel coronavirus, Jefferson City School District staff found other ways to celebrate the students in person.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Lewis and Clark Middle School teachers and staff cheered, blew whistles, rang bells, waved, sprayed silly string, yelled "congratulations" and held colorful handmade signs and balloons while eighth-grade students and families drove by Wednesday. Some students cried, formed hearts with their hands, held signs and did air high-fives with teachers.
LCMS Principal Deanne Fisher said it was important to the staff to celebrate the eighth-grade students in person.
"We wanted to be able to celebrate them in some way, and cheering and letting them know we're proud of them and that we're excited for the next step as they become Jeff City Jays was really the best thing we could provide given the circumstances," she said.
There will be similar end-of-year celebrations at four elementary schools today: Belair will have a summer send off at 5 p.m., Lawson will have a celebration for all grades at 5:30 p.m., Pioneer Trail will have a parade at 6 p.m., and North will have a celebration for all grades at 6 p.m.
Belair also held a socially distanced fifth-grade promotion Tuesday, and Lawson had one Wednesday.
TJMS normally has a last day of school send-off similar to Wednesday's event with staff gathering in front of the building, but buses typically leave instead of cars driving through. TJMS behavior interventionist Paula Smith said this year's event was longer than the typical send-off.
"It was awesome, because it allowed them to celebrate in a way that we don't normally get to do," she said.
Students usually receive awards and certificates at Lewis and Clark Middle School's eighth-grade promotion. This year, staff sent a video to parents that announced the awards, and they will send certificates to students.
Last year, LCMS started a tradition where Jefferson City High School Principal Bob James welcomes the eighth-grade students to high school and the drum line plays the fight song. This year, a speaker played the fight song and the principal speaking.
Jane Barlow, who teaches English as a second language at both middle schools, said it was important to her to attend one of the events to let the students know she cares about them.
"It's been kind of a challenging time for them trying to learn from home, and I want to let them know that I appreciate everything they've done and I appreciate their hard work," she said.
TJMS Behavior Interventionist Danielle Schaefer said this event brought closure to the students and staff.
"We've missed our babies so much for so long, and to see them again and give them the send-off that they've earned through their three years here was just phenomenal," she said.