School employees are hitting the streets to acknowledge students

Kirby Brandhagen, owner of the Cavalier Theater, decorated his store front for Tuesday's parade for Cavalier public school district's appreciation of students. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

School closures aren’t keeping staff members from seeing students -- from a safe social distance.

With sirens blaring and horns honking, school employees from across northeast North Dakota are parading in cars and buses down their students’ streets to let them know they are missed.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced Sunday, March 15, he was closing schools in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Students haven’t attended school in their buildings since the previous Friday, March 13.

On Thursday, March 26, to mark the end of the first week of distance learning, North Border School District teachers, administrators and staff paraded through Walhalla and the next day, through nearby Neche, Bathgate and Pembina.

Mindful of the importance of physical distancing, each staff member drove his or her own vehicle in the parades. The parades, which included the North Border Eagle mascot, went down every street in the four towns, said Nick Amb, Walhalla Elementary School principal.


“We wanted to see the kids and let them know we were thinking of them,” Amb said.

A couple of the district’s teachers thought of the idea and spread the word through texts and social media. Many of the students stood in their front yards, waving and cheering as their teachers drove by, Amb said.

“They miss their teachers, and we sure miss them," he said. “Even community members, you could see them looking out their windows, waving and smiling.”

Inspired by the North Border School District parade, Cavalier Public Schools held one of its own this week. The parade through Cavalier on Tuesday, April 7, was led by the Cavalier Fire Department and U.S. Border Patrol.

Like the North Border School District parades, Cavalier School District staff held the parade of vehicles to demonstrate their appreciation for their students.

“It was kind of a shock for everybody when we ended school and didn’t get to say goodbye,” said Tara Hartje, Cavalier Elementary School counselor and parade organizer. “It's been kind of a trying time for both students and teachers.

“When you’re with people eight hours a day for many days, you form a bond. We’re still trying to stay connected any way we can.”

About 95 miles south of Cavalier, Thompson Public Schools teachers, administrators and school support staff will parade through their town in vehicles on Thursday, April 9, at 2 p.m.


“We’re going to try and hit every street in town,” said John Maus, Thompson Public Schools superintendent. “Just kind of let the kids know that we’re still thinking about them.”

Sirens will be sounded to let students know the parade has arrived on their block. Maus hopes the event will be a morale booster for both parade participants and those watching it.

“Everyone is indoors and cooped up,” he said.

Students should be able to watch from their driveways, weather permitting.

“I think everybody’s pretty excited,” Maus said.

Amb, the Walhalla Elementary School principal, is pleased that school administration and staff across the region are sharing ideas with one another.

“Right now, our focus is on community and relationships. Good ideas can take off and snowball. There is a lot of collaboration that happens between schools,” he said.

Besides schools, individuals are also organizing parades as a way to honor certain groups. For example, supporters of Altru Health System workers, each in their own cars, planned to gather at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, in the parking lot at Hugo’s Family Marketplace, 1315 South Columbia Road. The parade participants then planned to drive through the Altru Hospital parking lot waving at health care workers who would be standing, 6 feet apart, outside the building, and to hospital patients standing by their rooms' windows.


“I think it’s a fun way for them to be able to see faces and smiles and waves,” said Lexy Henning, Altru parade organizer

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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