Herricks students express school spirit from confines of home

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Denton Avenue students expressed their thankful spirits with chalk art. (Photo courtesy of Herricks School District)

Herricks students and staff are not letting distance stop them from expressing their school spirit.

From Monday, March 30, through Friday, April 3, all three Herricks elementary schools participated in a virtual spirit week.

“I think it was important to continue to hold the spirit week although schools are closed because it still brought a sense of ‘normalcy’ to the events surrounding our world right now,” said Searingtown Elementary special education teacher Emily McGibbon, who came up with the idea for a spirit week. “Herricks’ schools has always been about community, so this spirit week showed parents, teachers/staff and, most importantly, the students that we are still a strong community and we are all there to support one another during these times.”

McGibbon, together with Searingtown Principal Diana DeGiorgio, school psychologist Maureen Andres and another special education teacher, began planning the event before the schools switched to distance learning.

“Our primary focus was to have the spirit week revolve around ideas celebrating the autism community, since April is Autism Awareness Month and since we have several classes in the district with this population,” McGibbon said.

“Once we moved to remote learning, it was our principal who changed the spirit week to become ‘virtual’ and adapted the days for everyone to be able to participate at home and also still reflect support for the autism community,” she added.

Center Street students kicked off the week with Pajama Day. On Tuesday, they “socked it to coronavirus” with crazy socks. Searingtown students followed suit Wednesday, and wore blue in honor of autism awareness on Thursday.

Students at Denton Avenue marked Music Monday by playing instruments and singing the school song. Thankful Tuesday was an opportunity to express appreciation for essential workers through drawings and messages in sidewalk chalk. Students celebrated Fun Friday with an assortment of at-home activities, including cooking and playing outside.

The virtual event helped to boost morale and bring the community together, said McGibbon.

As distance learning continues, staff members at all three schools continue to provide not only academic support, but emotional support for students as well. For example, Searingtown offers “Mindfulness Monday” activities, which so far have involved breathing exercises, guided meditation, muscle relaxation exercises, yoga and mindful coloring.

“There are many challenges that everyone is facing on a daily basis,” McGibbon said. “Everyone in my school has been really wonderful at being open with each other as co-workers when we need to hear something encouraging and positive.”

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