NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — With schools having gone online for the remainder of the school year, students and staff alike have had to adjust, and while learning is still going on, the social aspect of school has been one of the things missed most, and it’s no different at Wickford Middle School.
In order to find a safe solution, and inspired by similar events happening around the country, sixth and eighth grade social studies teacher Lynn Plotkin organized a staff parade throughout Wickford last Wednesday, with 35 teachers, administrators, aides and secretaries decorating their cars and making signs as they drove by their students and their families houses.
“We were seeing parades being done in other towns that were on the news and said ‘are we going to do this,’” Plotkin said. “ I know we’re not an elementary school, we’re bigger, we’re a middle school, but we can take this on.”
Her fellow staff members loved the idea, and after consulting with the North Kingstown Police Department, they got the clearing to parade a line of cars through Wickford on May 20, with one route going from the middle school to Boston Neck Road, and a second from Boston Neck Road back to the middle school.
“Everybody was on board, very much so,” Plotkin said. “We were all so excited.“
The school put out a notice to parents and student via social media, encouraging them to stand out on their front steps or yard and make posters as the cars went by, while also reminding them to do so at a distance and to not approach the cars or teachers to maintain proper social distancing.
“It was so wonderful, we loved it,” Plotkin said of the reaction. “We got to see our students and their families, but we also got to see former students who were out, community members out, everybody was smiling and waving and had signs, so it was fantastic. As much as they loved it, we loved it just as much.“
The parade started at the school, with many of the staff members seeing each other in person for the first time since March.
“(We talked) about how nice it was to actually see each other when we pulled up at the school, being able to see each other because we haven’t seen each other and then to see our students and their families was just awesome,” Plotkin said. “It was awesome to make some real contact like that and just for a little bit, it made it just a little normal, which is what we’re all wanting right now.“
Staff members decked their cars out in style, from colorful signs to chalk paint and balloons with messages of love and support for their students, while a Jeep featuring a student in the school’s Wicky the Wild Cat mascot costume and Assistant Principal Alison Palladino waved on to students.
“I had signs on my car and tinsel and I had a cowbell to ring,” Plotkin said of her car. “ Of course the best one was the art teacher, she was all decked out fantastic.”
The parade began at noon and lasted about two hours, covering most of Wickford and the school’s area, with students and parents showing their gratitude to the teachers for the work they’ve done while staff showed the love right back. Even Superintendent Phil Auger got in on the action, holding up a sign with the initials WMS on it as the cars passed by.
“Everybody was thrilled, absolutely thrilled,” Plotkin said of the parade. “(They) loved it.“
Overall, Plotkin considered the parade a great success and a reminder that, even in trying times, Wildcat pride can’t be broken.
“(All I can say is) how wonderful the Wickford Middle School staff is, that we came together and did this for our students and that we look forward to normal life again where we’re back in the classroom,” Plotkin said.