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After school year’s abrupt interruption, Atlas Elementary’s teacher’s parade brightens spirits

UPDATED: Wed., March 25, 2020

Third grade teacher Jennifer Behl and her granddaughter participate in a parade of teachers and staff from Atlas Elementary School on Wednesday  in Hayden, Idaho, while the Coeur d'Alene school district is closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Third grade teacher Jennifer Behl and her granddaughter participate in a parade of teachers and staff from Atlas Elementary School on Wednesday in Hayden, Idaho, while the Coeur d'Alene school district is closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

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A caravan of roughly 30 vehicles slowly made its way through Hayden and north Coeur d’Alene neighborhoods on Wednesday, each trailing the flashing red and blue lights of a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office escort.

Holding a pink sign that read “The best teachers in the world,” Atlas Elementary second-grader Mason Melison’s eyes lit up as each car passed his home, where he and his family stood in the driveway.

“Be sure to read your books tonight, kids,” a voice blasted from the megaphone on a sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car.

This parade – a gathering done in separate vehicles as a form of social distancing amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic – was for the kids, courtesy of their teachers.

They already miss each other.

With area schools recently closing their doors to help curb the spread of the virus, Atlas Elementary staff members planned a parade to help keep their students’ spirits up as many have been cooped up inside their homes due to official mandates.

On Wednesday, Idaho Governor Brad Little invoked a 21-day “stay home” order, limiting Idahoans to essential activities such as going to the grocery store or picking up to-go orders from local restaurants.

Atlas Elementary fifth-grade teacher Rebekah Comstock gathered most of the school’s staff at a parking lot meeting, in which they communicated from the seats of their respective vehicles, before the mandate went into effect.

“We thought this would be so fun to do for our kids,” Comstock said. “We miss our kids. It’s our community, it’s what we do.”

Other elementary schools in the Coeur d’Alene school district had recently done a by-car teachers parade, Comstock said, including Ramsey and Skyway.

Comstock sent an email out to other Atlas Elementary employees on Saturday to gauge their interest in a parade before ironing out the particulars.

The school sent an email Monday to parents to alert them of the parade that would roll through the streets in Atlas Elementary’s boundaries. On Tuesday, Comstock created the parade’s map and took four hours to test its time-specific route.

Under gray skies following an early-morning snowfall, the caravan took about three hours Wednesday afternoon.

The chilly weather didn’t deter dozens of students and their parents, many of whom waited on their porches with various handmade signs and balloons to recognize their teachers, who waved from their vehicles.

Gabe Covey, a fifth-grade Atlas student, created a colorful sign the night before.

“Mrs. Comstock is my favorite teacher, so this sign says ‘I miss you,’ ” he said. “It took me about 10 minutes to make it.”

The teachers also had signs on their vehicles to greet the students as they honked and waved. One teacher mounted a sizable moose stuffed animal on top of the hood.

Many residents unaware of the parade looked from their windows and their doorsteps in confusion as the caravan briefly gridlocked each residential street.

Amy Covey, Gabe’s mother, was thrilled.

“This is a big deal, because we’re locked in our houses, we’re not playing with the neighbors, and nobody is really hanging out with their school friends,” Amy said. “We’ve been trying to keep busy, and this is another activity to show our appreciation for the teachers setting this up.”

“The teachers said they’re doing this to brighten their spirits,” she added. “So we’re repaying the favor and letting them know we’re thinking of them.”

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