Schools find ways to celebrate end of year

Kayla Renie/The Herald
Holy Trinity Catholic School middle school religion and language arts teacher Sister Becky Mathauer, left, and resource assistant Amanda Kuczynski wave to students and their families as fourth-grade teacher Dana Buechlein, center, passes out frozen ice pops during a wrap-up drive-thru celebration at the school’s East Campus in Jasper on Saturday. Dressed in Hawaiian shirts and flower leis, faculty returned items to students, collected library books and textbooks, passed out freeze pops and wished students and their families a happy and safe summer. “It’s great to see their faces,” Mathauer said. “And to see our colleagues again, too.”


As e-learning wrapped up across Dubois County this week, the school year came to an end without the usual hugs goodbye between students and their favorite school staff members, well wishes for summer and backpacks full of school supplies and final works of art.

But despite COVID-19, school closures and social distancing, local schools are finding ways to celebrate students’ accomplishments and bring some closure to the school year.

At Dubois Elementary, teachers and staff lined up around the school Thursday night cheering as their students and their families drove past in their cars. Huntingburg Elementary plans to hold a similar event on May 26.

On Friday and Saturday, Holy Trinity Catholic School in Jasper sent students off for the year in a summer-themed drive around the school. Teachers dressed up in hula skirts, flower leis and wigs to greet their students as parents drove past, stopping at stations around the school buildings to return textbooks and student devices, pick up school supplies left in the desks since March and grab a frozen ice pop.

When Holy Trinity first-grader Will Knies saw his teacher, Jamie Clauss, he climbed out of the car to grab a socially distanced last-day-of-school picture. Will’s younger brother, pre-kindergartner Jack, art teacher Lenea Harless and kindergarten teacher Shelley Weinzapfel also jumped in for a photo, using pool noodles to maintain social distancing.

“It’s bittersweet,” Weinzapfel said. “It doesn’t feel like the end of the school year.”

At her house, Weinzapfel has her students’ memory books — scrapbooks with photos and pieces of artwork — waiting to be assembled. She’s still hoping to be able to see her students, give them the books and say a proper teacher farewell later this summer.

“I told the parents [that] as long as I have [the books] they’re still in my class,” she said.

Holy Trinity’s teachers aren’t the only ones saddened by the uneventful send off to their students.

“Usually at the end of the year, I get to give great big hugs and congratulatory applause for everyone’s yearlong efforts,” Fifth Street School Principal Kent Taylor wrote in a farewell Facebook post to the school’s page. “This school year has been so different for all of us, and for that, I am sorry.”

Tenth Street will hold item-return nights on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Hopefully I can see you then,” Taylor wrote.

As the school year comes to an end, teachers, students and parents are hopeful that schools will reopen in the fall, but that is still unknown. Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick plan to announce more information about reopening schools in June.

Although educators couldn’t end the year with their students the way they would have liked, Weinzapfel said she’s grateful schools are still finding a way to celebrate.

“It gives everybody a sense of closure,” she said. “You get to wish your students well.”

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