GROTON, Conn. – Representatives from Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE) supported teachers, staff, and parents at Charles Barnum Elementary School to lift student spirit and put on a parade, May 15, for all who have been missing school.
Charles Barnum Elementary, whose student population is overwhelmingly from military families, has been closed due to the emergency school closures across the state of Connecticut in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In keeping with state and community physical distancing directives however, the parade had a unique twist. While most parades involve spectators on the curb and participants moving by, this parade was “reversed.” Parents drove their children through the school parking lot while teachers, staff, and the SUBASE reps stood curbside waving signs and blasting music over loudspeakers expressing how much they missed the students.
“It’s so great to join all the teachers and faculty here,” said Dianne George, clinical counselor for children, SUBASE Fleet and Family Service Center Counseling and Advocacy Program, who took part in the parade. “The families are just driving through, everybody saying hello. The kids are having a really good time and so am I!”
George joined teachers and staff safely spaced apart, and all with facial coverings, including a Mickey Mouse character who waved and gave thumbs-ups to participants. At Charles Barnum, she runs a “Deployment Club” for students who have a parent or parents in the military and may be deployed.
For George, missing in-person interaction with the kids and their families has been compounded by fully understanding that the past few months have been a very stressful time for many families and children.
“I hope we have school in September,” said George. “This is my bread and butter. I love my work with the kids so it’s been hard not having that contact. I try to keep in touch with the kids or their parents over the phone, just to make sure things are alright at home. Kids can get very attached to their teachers. It’s been a very long Easter vacation this year.”
Sunny weather and up-tempo music played over a sound system kept all smiling and enthusiastic despite the on-going pandemic.
For SUBASE School Liaison Miranda Chapman the effort and success of the parade highlights a well-known fact.
“Pandemic or no, caring and pride still run deep in our Southeastern Connecticut Navy community!” said Chapman.