Mid-Prairie Strong

Teachers delight their students with a parade through Wellman, West Chester

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Kristen Thomas stood with her children near the corner of 13th Street and Eighth Avenue in Wellman Wednesday evening holding a paper banner that read “We Miss You.”

“It was our art project today for home school,” she said.

The Thomas family – Kristen, Tess, Parker and Cooper – was among hundreds who lined the streets of Wellman and West Chester April 1 as Mid-Prairie teachers and administrators drove past in a 110-plus car parade more than a mile long.

To give you an idea of how massive the parade was:

• As the first vehicle turned from Eighth Avenue onto 13th Street in Wellman, the last truck in the parade was making the turn onto First Avenue.

• The line of cars, trucks, vans and school buses stretched down First Avenue, jogged on Second Street to Eighth Avenue up to 13th Street and then down Ninth Avenue.

Ahead of the parade through Wellman, students and their families waited to wave to their teachers along County Road W-38 all the way to West Chester.

• There were so many vehicles that the staging area moved from the Parkside Community Center to the high school parking lot.

This was the second all-school parade. The first on March 30 went through Kalona, Richmond, Frytown and Washington Township.

As they waited for the Wellman parade to reach them, students talked about what they are doing while schools are closed. Watching movies. Playing outside. Going on bear hunts. Doing math and science. Working on spelling and writing. Reading.

But their eyes lit up when they talked about times their teachers reached out to them.

Zayden Steele got a postcard from Melissa O’Rourke, his kindergarten teacher at Mid-Prairie East.

Eleanor Harris had a Zoom meeting with preschool teacher Lori Miller.

Ruby Fernau used Zoom to read a story for Nikole Eichelberger, her first-grade teacher at Mid-Prairie East.

Many waved signs about how much they missed and loved their teachers.

The hard part of the parade, keeping friends a safe distance apart.

Megan Harris and Stephen and Samantha Bender had to keep reminding their children – Eleanor Harris and Bodie Bender – that they could not play together, they had to keep a social distance between them. That was hard for the two preschoolers.

“They are very excited to be seeing their friends,” Megan Harris said.

As the teachers’ cars drove past there were waves and big smiles.

Through it all, Rochelle England held up her cellphone so her daughters could watch the parade on Facetime.

The girls – Kaedince, Jamie, Jade and Isabel – were with their father on the other side of the state where sought refuge during the COVID-19 outbreak. Rochelle England is a nursing assistant working at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

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