Palliser staff reconnect with students at home

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Many families showed how much they've missed staff at Milo Community School.

MILO – When Principal Kerry Aiken shared news that school staff would parade past students’ homes, a parent asked in jest whether candy would be tossed to those lining the route.

While the COVID-19 pandemic that has separated Milo Community School staff from students also ruled out that possibility, the tour couldn’t have been any sweeter for all involved.

“It just lifted my spirits to be able to see the kids,” said Aiken after a tour of more than four-hours in dusty, windy conditions. “It was so exciting to see the families and all of the smiling faces, and it was so nice to bring some Milo school spirit to the communities we love to serve.”

Events to provide face-to-face connection with students and their families – with social distancing guidelines paramount in the planning – have been organized by staff across Palliser Regional Schools. In some cases families were invited to pass by the school to greet staff, and others like Milo took the show on the road.

Among those waiting anxiously in front of their home just blocks from the school was the Walker family. Mom Katie was “super excited” about the prospect for not only the students but herself as well.

“I said ‘we haven’t had a parade in Milo for quite a few years,’ so it was very cool. The boys, we’ve been waiting all day to go, haven’t we?” she said of Cody, a Grade 5 student, and Keegan, who’s in kindergarten.

The idea of a parade was sparked by the fact Milo staff have dropped off wellness hampers and school resources to families in the village and surrounding area since the pandemic resulted in cancellation of in-school classes in favour of remote learning for the remainder of the school year.

The staff have not only missed the students but also the daily interactions with their families and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to “reach out and spread a little bit of love and cheer,” said Aiken.

Milo Community School followed health guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, with staff members travelling alone and staying in their vehicles to ensure social distancing. They also had liaison Frank Sitting Eagle get approval to enter the nearby Siksika Nation, where a number of their students reside.

Before heading out, staff decorated their vehicles for the parade with balloons and streamers and words of encouragement painted on windows. Many of those families followed in kind, gathering in front of their homes to greet school staff and crafting signs to show the feelings were mutual.

Students held up signs proclaiming ‘I miss being at school with you guys,’ and ‘We love our teachers.’ A few parents made light of the extra time they’re now spending with their children. One couple showed off a sign which read ‘Save us from these kids!’ while another parent pointed out luggage left outside and laughed as they asked the touring visitors to take the children with them.

While Cody handed out letters of thanks to school staff as they stopped briefly in front of the Walker home, Katie and Keegan took turns waving a sign proclaiming: ‘Milo Staff: Thank you for all you are doing for all children. We are grateful. Stay safe.’

As the parade wound down, Katie offered further words of appreciation to the staff.

“I just want to say a huge ‘thanks’ to them. I can’t even imagine what their job is like now… To have to do all this technology and just be sort of ripped away from your student family, just so many emotions,” she said.

To view a video of the Milo Community School tour posted on the Palliser Regional Schools' YouTube channel CLICK HERE

See more images from Milo and tours by several other Palliser schools below.