High school seniors everywhere are mourning the end of their in-person academic sessions due to the closure of schools and switchover to online classes caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
However, one Georgia math teacher wanted to do something special for her senior high school students when she found out that they wouldn’t be able to finish the year in person.
Jennifer McLarty teaches eight seniors at Walton High School, a public charter school in Cobb County where classes were canceled since March 13. Even though her interactions with her students took place exclusively over online calls she tried to keep them thinking positive even then.
“They wanted to know what was going happen with prom, graduation, at [the] time it was like ‘guys that’s so far off, let’s not even go there right now,’” McLarty said.
However, students found out early this month that their last day of in-person classes had come and gone when on April 1, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order mandating all public elementary and secondary schools, as well as public colleges, close their doors for the rest of the academic year.
According to the Cobb County School District: “School closures continue to include athletics/sports, extracurricular school activities, proms, school building activities, and trips.” The seniors’ final celebrations were effectively canceled, just as they had feared.
To ensure the students’ grades would not suffer due to the pandemic, the district allowed them to accept their grades as of March 15, or continue their classes via online learning. McLarty presented them with the choice over conference call, they all decided to keep their grades.
“Their senior year is over,” she said. But that realization was tough for all of them.
“It was an emotional meeting,” she said. “So I told my boys, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to go do something fun.’”
McLarty drove around the county with her two sons for four hours, leaving encouraging messages in front of her students’ houses with chalk which congratulated the students on their future plans, grades and other accomplishments.
She wanted to help them celebrate even though their high school careers ended without any festivities. “I just wanted to put smiles on their faces,” McLarty said.
“They’re going through a lot of not having milestones that we all had. It’s just so sad,” she added. “It was just kind of a whim, but I know it meant a lot to them. I’ve heard from them and most of the parents. It was well-received.”
“I really connected with this group, and it was just the right thing to do. It was kind of a no-brainer.”
Teachers across the nation are also showing their support for their students in unique ways. School staff have put on parades for the kids, driving by their homes just to see their students and show them that they are thinking about them.
Texas resident Heather Kestila shared a video on March 20 showing her child’s elementary school teachers participating in such a parade.
The teachers from Robertson elementary drove through our neighborhood today so they could see the kids. The wind might have gotten in my eyes. 😭❤️😭❤️😭 #elearning #kinder #quarantined #teacherparadechallenge @friscoschools Frisco Independent School District
Posted by Heather Kestila on Friday, March 20, 2020
“The teachers from Robertson elementary drove through our neighborhood today so they could see the kids. The wind might have gotten in my eyes,” she wrote on Facebook.
It is going to be a hard time for senior high school students as they finish high school without the customary prom, high school graduation ceremony, graduation celebrations and more. But with teachers like McLarty and others they are helping spread some much-needed cheer among them.