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The teachers and staff of Explorer Elementary School held a parade for their students on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, to encourage them by showing them how much they miss and care about them. The teachers met at the school and decorated their cars before heading out on the streets where their students live. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Faculty from Explorer Elementary School in Colorado Springs drove through the school’s neighborhoods with decorated cars to spread cheer and encouragement to their students and families. (Video by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Beeps from car horns interrupted the chirping birds, barking dogs and shrieking children playing outside in a Briargate neighborhood Tuesday.

It wasn’t a case of road rage but a touch of cheer and encouragement in seemingly dark times.

Thirty-five vehicles driven by teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, cafeteria workers, crossing guards and administrators from Explorer Elementary School in Academy School District 20 paraded the side streets around Explorer and nearby Timberview Middle School.

“We miss you! We love you! Nice to see you!” school staff yelled out of their open windows, some waving blue-and-white pom-poms. Words of appreciation decorated many car windows.

In turn, some families lined up on the streets held cardboard signs with equal messages of praise.

“I wanted to see my teachers,” said Hunter Moree, a student at Explorer, who stood in front of the school with three of his four siblings.

“We miss them and are grateful for them,” said his older sister, Bailee.

“The kids miss them as much as they miss our kids,” said mom, Kim Moree. “This makes it a little easier.”

Public and private schools in the Pikes Peak region either took an extra week of spring break or started remote learning from home after March 13, when the coronavirus began spreading in Colorado and public health concerns led to school closures.

Principal Kristen Driver got the idea for the parade from one of her teachers, who saw a social media post about a similar event elsewhere and said, “We’ve got to do this.”

Driver agreed and on Monday, the first day of spring break, she sent a video to Explorer’s 520 preschool through fifth graders, telling them how much they are missed, preparing them for electronic learning that's coming next week and alerting them about Tuesday's event.

“We are truly a neighborhood school,” she said. “The majority of our students live in the neighborhood and go to school here.”

Cars left the school at 11 a.m. and wound through the neighborhood for about an hour.

“Hi guys, we miss seeing you,” Driver yelled as she waved from the window of her Jeep.

“This is sweet of them to think of the kids like this,” Elena Melin, the mother of four D-20 students.

“I think this is hard for everybody.”

In-person classes were to have resumed March 30, after this week's scheduled spring break, but Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered all schools statewide to shut down from March 23 through April 17.

Area schools now are supposed to start up again on April 20, with remote learning resuming March 30. Although the governor has said it’s increasingly unlikely schools will reopen this semester, as the virus continues to be a problem.

The uncertainty is hard on parents, students and schools, Melin said.

“Will they go back, will they not — we just don’t know,” she said. “It’s especially tough on older kids, who have sports and tests and a lot going on.”

“We never got to say goodbye,” Driver, the principal, said.

That word wasn't tossed out on Tuesday because no one knows yet how public restrictions will play out.

"We love our schools," said one mom. "I think they’re doing a great job — the best they can.”

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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