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Lack of social distancing halts teacher parade
Public complaints lead to decision by deputies
Families space themselves out along Stockyard Road as teachers and staff from Julia P. Bryant Elementary School and Williams James Middle School connect with students through a car parade before being broken up by the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office after complaints.

A “parade” of teachers trying to touch base with students during the COVID-19 quarantine was shut down early Wednesday due to public complaints.

Teachers with Julia P. Bryant Elementary School and William James Middle School planned the event, during which they planned to drive in their vehicles, escorted by law enforcement, through students’ neighborhoods so they could wave at them and encourage them in these uncertain times, said Bulloch County Schools Public Relations and Marketing Director Hayley Greene.

“Unfortunately, even though … administrators had cleared this activity with law enforcement and even had (Bulloch County sheriff’s Deputy Bubba Revell) en route with them,” they didn’t foresee problems, she said. Parents had been notified of the parade and had been reminded to observe social distancing, but some apparently did not.

Teachers “had communicated with families prior to the activity and encouraged everyone to be sure to be safe and maintain social distancing, (but) some did not heed these cautions, so for safety the Sheriff’s Department asked the schools to end the joint drive by faculty parade early,” she said.

Students enrolled in the Bulloch County school system have not seen their teachers since March 13. The school district closed on March 16 and will remain closed through the rest of the year due to public health concerns and attempts to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

“The social and emotional separation from their teachers is especially difficult for younger students who may have concerns about whether their teachers are safe and healthy,” Greene said. The parade was “a creative way to try and give as many students as possible a friendly wave and hello.”

JPBES Principal Pam Goodman and WJMS Principal Julie Mizell and their teachers organized the event with the intent to maintain proper social distancing, she said. “The schools alerted students' families about Wednesday's caravan, and for safety, they alerted law enforcement as well,” Greene said.
But midway through the parade, calls started coming in to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office about noise and people gathering in groups of more than 10, in violation of the social distancing guidelines. Deputies then called to end the parade.

Public dismissal of safety measures, even after being reminded by school officials, was unexpected, Greene said.

“Due to neighborhood complaints, we were not able to complete our Teacher Car Parade today,” Mizell said. “We apologize to all of the families that were waiting to see us. We certainly were looking forward to being able to wave to you. Please take care and we hope to see you soon.”

Teachers and students can still maintain contact while school is postponed, Greene said.

Students who did not get to see their teachers can share a picture of their family or their sign on either the JPBES or WJMS Facebook sites.

“We encourage everyone to be safe and be well,” she said. “Teachers throughout the district are also contacting their students by phone or email at least twice each week to check on how they are doing academically, socially, and emotionally.”


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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