'We all miss our kids': Franklin Elementary parade connects teachers, students

'We all miss our kids': Franklin Elementary parade connects teachers, students

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At the corner of 10th and Schilling, the Burbach family patiently waited in their front yard as car horns sounded in the distance and a gentle snow began to fall.

“Get your signs ready, kids!” warned Brooke Burbach, whose two children jumped to action.

Laney Burbach, a fifth-grader at Franklin Elementary School, ran to grab a neon-pink sign that read, “You’re amazing!” Her younger brother Hagen, who’s in second grade, sprang to her side, full of excitement. The family leaned over the curb and peered down the street in anticipation, as the car horns grew louder and louder and the Franklin Elementary School Teacher Parade grew closer and closer.

Around 30 cars driven by teachers and staff weaved throughout the Franklin Elementary bus route on Thursday morning in the neighborhoods that surround the school, getting some much-needed face time with their students and creating a small connection in an uncertain time.

“It’s a way to reach out and make sure everybody is doing OK,” said Franklin Principal Lynsi Morris, adding she pitched the idea to her staff after a friend from out of state shared a Facebook post about another school holding a teacher parade. “I just thought, that’s amazing, we need to do that, because we all miss our kids.”

Franklin Elementary, along with all Missoula County Public Schools, has been closed since March 15 under the direction of Gov. Steve Bullock due to threats of COVID-19. The closure will remain in effect through at least April 10. Since the doors were shuttered, teachers and administrators have been separated from their students, setting up remote learning opportunities through Google Classroom as the world follows social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

As the parade passed the Burbach’s home, teachers shouted “hello” to Laney and Hagen, who waved back and jumped up and down as their favorite educators passed.

“Hi, Mrs. Devlin!” Laney called out, as the second-grade teacher slowed down for a special hello through her open window.

“We just wanted them to know that we’re still here and we’re OK and we’re wishing them well,” Kathleen Devlin said.

“We are their everyday routine, so going out of our way and seeing them on the computer screen or through your car just shows we care and we’re here still,” Morris said.

When she arrived at Franklin on Thursday morning to meet with the rest of the teachers and staff, she said she was amazed by how many came out.

“I think 95% of the staff was there,” she said. “Driving the streets and seeing not only our students, but elderly people come out crying, it was really hard and there were a lot of tearful moments.”

As the parade passed the Johnson family’s house, Eric Johnson picked up his pajama-clad son Magnus and propped him up on his shoulders for a better view.

“These are going to be your teachers next year,” he said to Magnus, who eagerly waved at his future educators. Eric then turned to his second-grade daughter.

“That’s pretty cool that they’d come out to see you guys, huh, Marley?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed through a big grin while waving as the cars passed. One vehicle was sporting a sign that read, “Mrs. Hansen misses you all!” Another read, “We love our Franklin students!” Almost all the cars had some message of positivity and hope.

“We’re like a family for the year when we’re together with our kids as classroom teachers,” Devlin said. “We worry about their families and if they’re in any stress.”

She said holding the parade is not just an opportunity for them to see each other after a long time apart, it’s also a way to bring a sense of normalcy to their lives in an abnormal time.

“We’re conveying a message that maybe can be calming at a time when things are not calm.”

Morris said not having students at the school and preparing for at-home learning and instruction has been difficult, but having a close-knit and supportive Franklin community has eased the pain.

“I guess I can speak for every teacher and admin at MCPS and probably across the nation that it’s sad. We miss our kids and it was a hard change for us, but we’ve all stepped up. We’re getting there, we’re getting used to it, but we’re hoping it doesn’t last too long.”

To see more photos of the Franklin Elementary Teacher Parade, please go to this story on Missoulian.com

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The small community in northern Montana has a population of about 4,800 but accounts for three-fifths of the state's five total deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus

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