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‘Losing That Connection’

Parade Allows Students To See Beloved Teachers

The Southwestern Central School District held a parade Wednesday afternoon that featured teachers and staff posted around the Chautauqua Mall. Many students brought signs that read “We Miss You” and waved to many teachers they haven’t had the chance to see in person since schools closed last month. P-J photos by Eric Tichy

LAKEWOOD — Maureen Donahue admitted she shed a few tears seeing parents and students Wednesday morning as a line of cars circled the Chautauqua Mall for a make-shift parade.

Several Southwestern students held signs that read “We Miss You” and waved at teachers as their parents drove around the mall. It was the first chance many students had to see their teachers since schools across the country closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cried at first,” said Donahue, superintendent of the Southwestern Central School District. “Not having the kids with us is hard and losing that connection. We weren’t designed to be e-learners — that’s not who we are. I think we’re doing an incredible job at e-learning, well-beyond what we could have imagined, but it’s not who we are.”

The parade, which went for an hour beginning at noon, featured teachers posted around the mall property, some with signs of their own, and others with their children or pets.

A line of cars and SUVs waited to get into the mall parking lot for a chance to take part in the event. Click here to see a gallery of photos.

Donahue said her goal throughout the closure is to maintain the connection many students have with their teachers. Some staff are using online resources, such as Zoom, to keep the bridge intact while not in the classroom.

“One of the things that we continue to stress during this time off is keeping our connections with our kids,” she said. “We want them to know that we care about them and we love them. We have really focused on our student-to-staff connections to keep that going.”

However, concerns over the 2020 graduating class remain as well.

“I want them to know that we’re going to get through it together,” Donahue said of seniors. “One of our mottos we keep using through this is to stay ‘Trojan Tough.’ I used to think ‘Trojan Tough’ meant that you were bigger and stronger. Now it really means about being kinder and reaching out to each other, staying connected.”

“I want our seniors to know we’re going to do everything we can to finish out strong with them as Trojans, so they’ll always be Trojans,” she continued. “But I worry most for our seniors.”

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