WEBB CITY, Mo. — The Webb City community was able to temporarily escape from the hardships of the pandemic Monday afternoon when teachers from the school district began rolling down their neighborhoods in a car parade to demonstrate solidarity and compassion.

Teachers, staff and administrators from Webster Primary Center, Madge T. James Kindergarten Center and Mark Twain Elementary piled into more than 30 vehicles and were escorted by Webb City police and fire departments around the city for three hours. A few of the cars sported decorations, and drivers honked at the crowds with handmade posters and conveying messages such as "we miss you" in sidewalk chalk.

“The kids are screaming and waving just like we are,” said Megan Dotson, first grade teacher at Webster Primary Center and car parade organizer. “We were screaming that we missed them and love them, and the kids were screaming back at us. I would definitely say there were tears involved. It was such a happy moment to share with our kids but in a different way than we ever have before. It was an unforgettable experience.”

The Webb City district, like most other school districts in Jasper County, is closed through at least April 3 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amber Davidson, art teacher at Webster Primary Center and another parade organizer, said she wanted to put on the event after seeing the idea on social media. Davidson shared the plan with her colleagues, who were immediately on board. Less than 48 hours later, the first-time event for the school district was in gear.

“I feel like it really spread a lot of cheer in the community, and it was so good to see all of the smiling faces,” Davidson said. “It was uplifting for those of us in the parade and for those watching. Some of them were students, and some were not. There were even adults who came out.”

The art teacher and her children decked out her car with “Despicable Me” minions that said, “We’re so happy to see you.” The COVID-19 outbreak and social isolation has been particularly difficult for teachers who say they miss their students every day.

“As teachers, we love our kids, and we want to be there with them, so this has definitely been a challenge,” Davidson said. “We’re working on some ways that we can be in touch with them even when we can’t be in the same room with them, so the parade was a good start for that.”

Ashley Tucker, a Webb City parent, stood outside with her two children, who are in kindergarten and first grade. The family was excited and looked forward to the parade all morning. Tucker, who’s a librarian for Soaring Heights Elementary School in Joplin, said the Joplin School District is exploring the idea of a car parade.

“I thought it was a really great way to stay connected to the families and for the kids to know that their teachers are still thinking of them,” she said. “They did see their teachers, and there was support staff like their music teacher and the counselors, which was exciting. Some of them had their kids with them also, so it was cool for them to get to see other kids because they don’t get to right now. It was something happy for them to look forward to.”

Ann Brockmiller, a third grade teacher at Mark Twain Elementary, said she hopes students and families know they’re appreciated by the district.

“I want them to know that when their teachers say they would go above and beyond for them that they believe it, and they were able to see that Monday,” she said. “The things we do every day for them is real, and if anything, I want them to know that they’re loved and cared for.”

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.

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