High school seniors across the nation are grieving the unceremonious end of their in-person academic careers, as many schools across the nation have completely shut down or switched to online classes due to the coronavirus.
But one Georgia math teacher didn’t want her students’ high school careers to end on such a discouraging note.
So, she decided to spread some positivity once they found out 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 in-person classes have been canceled since March 13, according to The Marietta Daily Journal.
At the time, the possibility of in-person classes being canceled for the rest of the year still seemed like a far-off concern, even though her interactions with her students took place exclusively over online calls.
She tried to keep her students 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 told WAGA.
However, students found out early this month that their last day of in-person classes had come and gone.
On April 1, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order mandating that all public elementary and secondary schools, as well as public colleges, close their doors for the rest of the academic year.
A shelter-in-place order went into effect on April 3 and has been extended until April 30, according to The Associated Press.
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 that students’ grades would not suffer as a result of the pandemic, the district allowed them to accept their grades as of March 15, or continue their classes via online learning. The Journal reported that when McLarty presented them with the choice over conference call, they all decided to keep their grades.
“Their senior year is over,” she told WAGA.
But that realization was tough for all of them.
“It was an emotional meeting,” she told The Journal. “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. The messages congratulated the students on their future plans, grades and other accomplishments.
She wanted to make sure that they felt celebrated, despite ending their high school careers without all the festivities they had been anticipating.
“I just wanted to put smiles on their faces,” McLarty told WAGA.
“They’re going through a lot of not having milestones that we all had. It’s just so sad,” she added to The Journal. “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.”
✨You can’t chalk up four years of high school without a proper goodbye?? A Cobb county teacher’s heartfelt message to the class of 2020 is just ahead on @FOX5Atlanta #Covid_19 #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/ICIjLeNUst
— Alex Whittler (@AlexWhittler) April 6, 2020
McLarty isn’t the only one going out of her way to make her students feel special.
Teachers across the nation are piling into their cars to show support for their students.
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 posted 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,” she wrote on Facebook.
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