In a time when "social distancing" is the name of the game with counties going into "shelter in place" mode and people self-quarantining themselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ballinger Independent School District educators and staff decided to show their students and parents just how much they truly appreciate them by putting on a parade.
Ballinger superintendent Jeff Butts said that the idea came from the Ballinger Elementary School principal, "Ms. Jamie Dudley, the principal at Ballinger Elementary School, approached me with the idea last week. Ballinger Junior High Principal Ms. Leslie Griffis and Ballinger High School Principal Mr. Ryan Knickerbocker were very supportive of doing the parade as well."
Butts said that he was in favor of the idea, and that the city supported the decision to hold the parade, "I thought it was a great idea. I spoke with Mayor Dawni Seymour and Ballinger Police Chief Stan Maresch and they were very supportive of the idea."
Almost 70 vehicles lined up in 4 lines in the parking lot of Ballinger High School as they prepared to begin the parade. Many vehicles had Bearcats flags gently and proudly flapping in the cool evening breeze of the west Texas spring. Other vehicles had painted poster board with words of encouragement adorning the doors and windows and each vehicle was filled with educators and their families. Even as teachers and families stood 6’ or more apart in the parking lot to listen to the prayer before embarking in their sojourn of unity, their hearts and spirits were together. The 6’ "social distancing" was nothing more than a number. This parade was about bridging the distance that many students might feel having not been in school for 3 weeks.
When Butts and the others approached the teachers in the district about the parade idea, they found unwavering support, "We have had an overwhelming response from our staff. We all miss our students very much. We saw this as an opportunity to at least acknowledge that we miss them and we care about them." Butts said that the school board was approached with the idea and that they supported it, ‘The Ballinger ISD Board of Trustees were very supportive of the idea. "
The parade was a strong sign of unity and support within the community, and is a truly unique way to show that we’re all in this together and that the students and parents haven’t been forgotten. Butts said that a lot of thought went into the idea and that they wanted to show everyone that they are still thinking about their students and community, "We are hoping our community will understand that we are all in this together and that we (Ballinger ISD) support them during this time. The main goal of us doing the parade is to show our support for our students and our families, not only by meeting their student’s academic needs but their personal needs as well. We realize that we are asking a lot of them to have home-based instruction. Both our students and their families are doing a wonderful job of adjusting to this unique time in education."
Butts said that the district did adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines while showing support to their students and community, "To follow safety precautions during the parade due to the COVID-19 virus, we are not allowing more than two staff members per vehicle and asking students, parents and community members to stay in their yards and wave in order to prevent the people from congregating."
People came in from Rowena, Hatchel and other areas to show their support while maintaining the respectful distance as they parked across the street and separate from each other. Many of them with their own poster boards and flags displayed in appreciation of the educators.
To ensure that they were able to drive every street in the town, the parade had 4 different groups, each proceeding to an area of town, bringing a sense of normalcy in a time when nothing seems normal anymore. The parade was a reminder of the care that the educators feel for their students and was evidence that teachers and school staffs are the fabric of the community.