Staff members at White Elementary School can’t let the school year officially end without saying a socially distanced goodbye to their fifth-graders.
The school is hosting one last hurrah for its 83 rising middle schoolers Friday at 2 p.m. when administrators, faculty and staff members line the school parking lot on Colonel Way for the Warrior Wave.
Parents and their fifth-graders are invited to drive by and say goodbye to their teachers and principals for the last time.
And this year’s seniors from Adairsville, Cass and Woodland high schools who are WES alumni are being asked to dress in their caps and gowns and join the staff members in the parking lot to wish the rising sixth-graders good luck and to send them off in style.
“The end of the year is a bittersweet time for the fifth-graders transitioning to middle school,” Principal Amy Heater said. “We always hold a Fifth-Grade Warrior Walk where we have the White Elementary alumni — seniors — lead the parade. I always want to highlight the end goal, which is graduation, and I send them off by telling them I’ll see them in 2027."
Having seniors there in their graduation regalia encourages the fifth-graders to go the distance in their public education careers, according to Heater.
“This gives our young students something to look forward to, such as graduating high school, in the future,” she said.
Staff and WES alumni will follow social-distancing protocol by lining up 6 feet apart in the school parking lot with signs, balloons, streamers and other decorations “as parents drive through with fifth-graders waving goodbye one last time before making the journey to middle school,” Heater said.
Students must stay in their vehicles, and nothing can be handed back and forth or turned in during the 15- to 20-minute event, but each elementary school graduate will receive a special Warrior water bottle filled with goodies.
Though this wasn’t the ending that was planned for the Class of 2027, “this will be a proper goodbye based on the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Heater said.
“It has been tough not having the students in the building,” she said. “We do so many end-of-the-year celebrations to honor our students, especially the fifth-graders. We issued awards via Facebook to highlight the great accomplishments of our students this year.”
Julie Von Tonder, who taught fifth grade for the first time after teaching third grade for four years, said she’s happy the school is able to do some form of the “longstanding tradition” of the fifth-grade walk.
“I am so glad that, amidst the unconventional circumstances brought about by COVID-19, we’ve figured out a way to recognize and honor our fifth-graders as they make the transition to middle school,” she said. “I can’t wait to see the students at the Warrior Wave and know that it will be an emotional day and one whose memory I will cherish for a lifetime.”
Jennifer Appling, a fifth-grade teacher for 15 years, said she and her fellow teachers are “very excited to have the opportunity to carry on, at least in some way, a tradition that the fifth-graders would usually enjoy on the last day of school.”
“The Warrior Wave allows students, teachers, parents and the seniors who are alumni of WES the ability to celebrate this milestone while practicing social distancing,” she said. “This allows for our fifth-graders to be sent off in style to their next exciting adventure — middle school.”
The teachers had special messages for the class that they only got to teach in person for part of the 2019-20 school year.
“You hold a special place in my heart,” Von Tonder said. “I’ve had the opportunity of working with you twice, having taught your group during your third-grade year, too. It has been a privilege and a pleasure watching you grow and mature, both academically and personally, over the past three years. Please, please, please stay in touch, whether it be via email, phone/text or coming by the school. I am always here to love and support you, whatever your needs may be. I love you, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for you.”
“We are so proud of our WES fifth-graders,” said Jennifer DeHart, a fifth-grade teacher for 11 years. “They have shown such strength, determination and grit in dealing with all the challenges that have come their way this year. While this is not the ending that any of us could have foreseen at the beginning of this year, it is one that we all will never forget.”
“We know that this group of kids is going to move mountains, and we can’t wait to see how far they soar,” third-year fifth-grade teacher Leanne Pyle said. “They should be proud of all they have accomplished and remember that we are always here for them. They will forever be a WES Warrior."