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CASA GRANDE — For some area students, the extended break from school due to the coronavirus is a scary and confusing time.

They miss their teachers and the teachers miss them. But some schools are finding unusual ways of staying in touch with their students while still practicing social distancing.

Desert Willow and Ironwood elementary schools scheduled mini parades with teachers and school staffers driving through the neighborhoods in which their students live.

When the processions were scheduled to pass by, students were invited to wave to their teachers.

“It’s a way for the school teachers and staff to maintain their relationships and sense of connectedness with their students,” said Michael Cruz, communications and marketing specialist for the Casa Grande Elementary School District.

On Wednesday, staff and teachers with Ironwood Elementary School met in the school parking lot at 12:30 p.m. and spent more than an hour driving through the neighborhoods of Ironwood Commons, Highland Manor, Monterra Village, Tameron and G Diamond Ranch, waving to their students.

“We’ll be driving around your neighborhoods with lots of smiles and waves,” a Facebook post announcing the mini-parade read.

On Monday, Desert Willow teachers did the same, also driving through the neighborhoods in which their students reside.

“For a lot of the students, they don’t understand the what’s happening and why they have to stay home, and that leads to some anxiety,” Cruz said. “Some of students spend a lot of time at school. They see their teachers every day so these drive-throughs help to reduce their anxiety.”

At Casa Grande Middle School, staff and teachers put together a “reaching out” video for their 740 students.

“We wanted to make sure we sent out this video from all of us here at CGMS to let you know we miss you and we’re looking forward to seeing you again,” school Principal Christopher Laughlin says in the opening scene of the video.

He goes on to urge students to take care of themselves and wash their hands and stay safe.

The nearly 10-minute video features various teachers at home, many with pets, also wishing students well and offering messages of hope and encouragement. Some teachers in the video urge students to wash hands, read and do math.

“It lets the students know the teachers are thinking of them,” Cruz said.

The video can be found on the Casa Grande Middle School Facebook page.

Cactus Middle School also posted video messages on its Facebook page from its principal and teachers, reaching out to students and reminding them to stay connected virtually.

Villago Middle School announced on its Facebook page that the student council will host a virtual spirit week March 30 through April 3. The virtual event features themes such as Meme Monday, Social Distancing Twinning Tuesday, Binge Watching Wednesday, Quarantined Thursday and Flashback Friday, all aimed at having students post theme photos and videos every day.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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