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Fall at McKinley Elementary is usually an action packed time with the talent show, Halloween parade, and Harvest Festival uniting the community and delighting students. Parents have decided this year should be no different and have banded together to transform these beloved events into virtual formats.

Through a community movie night, virtual talent show, Zoom clubs, and an activity filled fall festival website, the community is creating events that excite and energize elementary students.

“Continuing to have community building and family events are important to give our students a sense of normalcy, school pride, and a feeling of joy and connectedness,” said McKinley Principal Ashley Benjamin. “I’m proud of how we at McKinley have creatively transformed our traditions into fun virtual experiences.”

Several of these events have been led by parents who feel compelled to make sure tradition does not fall by the wayside this fall. For the past month McKinley families have been brewing up a special Halloween surprise to bring the holiday’s enchantment directly to children’s homes. They have designed a harvest festival website with seventeen seasonal activities such as a fall cooking demonstration, a spooky read along, and jack-o-lantern gallery.

Earlier in the year families collaborated to create a virtual talent show with many parents offering up their film industry skills. Over 50 performances were edited together and more than 700 community members watched the show, which included performances by a magician, stand up comedian, dance troupe and many more talented students.

“The variety of talent was amazing, and it was a testament to how safe and supported our students feel to be themselves and take risks,” said Benjamin. “It was really special to see how confident, proud, and creative the students were, and to feel the warmth, love, and support of their family members shining through the screen.”

This year has not been an easy time to be an elementary school student. There have been many frustrations and disappointments that are difficult for young students to rationalize and adapt to. It has also been very challenging for their parents who are juggling working from home with childcare and managing distance learning. These community events strive to bring joy and connection to both children and parents.

“We recognize that this is a difficult time for everyone and simply treading water is an effort, so we as parents are lifting each other up and that’s what McKinley is about,” said Alana Levitt, McKinley parent. “The parents who are organizing these things are doing it for all of our children and their families.”

McKinley has always been a community oriented school with an active PTA and many volunteer opportunities. While these activities are limited by COVID restrictions, parents feel it is even more essential now to find ways for families to collaborate on community events.

“Kids like seeing their parents involved and that involvement may look different for every family. It could be time, money, donation of an item, or volunteering in the classroom,” said Mari Ostendorf, McKinley parent. “One of the great things about our school community is that however and in whatever shape a parent or guardian can get involved it is welcomed, accepted and appreciated.”