By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
As children return to school throughout Etowah County, students at John S. Jones Elementary School in Rainbow City received an Oscar-worthy welcome. The star-studded staff at John Jones escorted children down the red carpet during their first days of class, cheering them on as if they were the leading roles in a feature film.
John Jones transported its students to Hollywood on August 17 and 18, welcoming elementary-schoolers to talk a walk down the red carpet on their first day of class. Despite all the regulations and changes implemented due to COVID-19, teachers and staff at John Jones understood the importance of ensuring their students feel safe, special and excited to learn.
“This year has been a difficult time for everyone, but especially for young people,” said John Jones Principal Tanya Clark. “We wanted it to be a good memory, so when they look back on 2020, they will always remember the first day back at John Jones Elementary.”
Clark commended the school’s incredible crew that dedicated hours of their time to create such a spectacular scene. John Jones counselor Michelle Hunt and instructional aide Florence Watts channeled their artistic talents to develop the decorations and signs, while others cut out stars that lined the entire car line and rolled out the red carpet. The school had a balloon arch with stars that hung from the ceiling along the walkway, and John Jones’ PTSO purchased star-shaped sunglasses to hand to students as they exited their vehicles.
Darren Gilbreath, a parent, volunteered to be the event’s DJ for both days, playing music for the students. Tuxedo Inn’s Bobby Kintz donated tuxedos to the male teachers, while the female teachers dressed in evening gowns.
“It really looked like they were headed to the Oscars,” said Clark. “We have faculty members that don’t have homerooms that help every day with car line and they are all wonderful team players. We do some crazy things at car line and they are always willing to wear costumes and act silly if need be. They came up with amazing outfits to wear! Our homeroom teachers joined in by planning activities in their classes, making photo booths in the halls and dressing the part as well. Our faculty and staff had so many great ideas! It just continued to get bigger and bigger as new ideas kept coming.”
Designed to encourage students with optimism and fun, the red carpet welcome achieved its goal. Though partially hidden by masks, the beaming smiles on children’s faces and cheerful attitudes that drifted down the red carpet signaled a positive start to each child’s school year. Clark noted that they did not witness a single student cry on the first day of school, which is a rarity. She also shared that since the event, she received an outpouring of emails and messages from parents expressing their appreciation for the school’s efforts.
Though John Jones teachers have not seen their students in five months, the welcome event is evidence of the devotion those teachers feel towards their students. Through dedication and creativity, John Jones educators transform every day activities into a Blockbuster hit, showing their students that despite the uncertainty in the world, within the walls of John Jones remain caring and comforting individuals committed to serving each child who walked down the red carpet.
“We wanted to send a message that we are glad to have our students back,” said Clark. “It has broken my heart to see teachers on the news in other parts of the country that were protesting against opening schools. We can never forget that as teachers, we are public servants and that we are here for the students – not the other way around. Opening school this year has been a challenge, but I feel strongly that it was the right thing to do. We are grateful to the Etowah County Board of Education for allowing parents to choose which format suited the needs of individual families. They have provided us with what we need to keep our students safe and our community has been so supportive. We are glad to be back in the business of educating and taking care of our students.”