Abrupt closure leaves Westbrook students, parents, faculty wishing for more
May 27, 2020 01:10PM
By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones
By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]
Four years ago, when Crista Holt stepped in as principal of Westbrook Elementary in Taylorsville, she, along with the community, hardly expected a closure until the possibility raised its ugly head in November of 2019.
What Holt knew was excited to be a part of the students’ education. Now, with the COVID-19 virus running its course, she is more than appreciative that her staff is “stepping up.”
“There are a handful of teachers mailing out notecards to the students in their class, along with little surprises like stickers or certificates awarding the students for the hard work they’re doing,” she said.
Sarah Pinnock, a dance specialist at Westbrook and Monroe elementary schools, is part of the stepping up. She has continued with a weekly web dance class where students can continue to shake a leg or an arm if they choose.
“I have lesson plans on my website, and students can send in videos of what they are doing,” she said. Pinnock, or “Miss Sarah” as she’s known, has been teaching dance at schools for three years but said this year, since COVID-19, she’s had to be even more creative than usual.
“The most important thing is that I make contact,” she said. “It’s hard to know if they’re OK. But we’ve been able to do it. They’re awesome. I’ve told them there’s lots we can’t control, but we can control ourselves. We can be human and happy in all circumstances.”
“I have a deep appreciation for everyone working together to get through this,” Holt said, speaking of the way things have changed since the virus. “I’m usually at the school, and I miss seeing the students every day in the halls, at lunch and outside at recess. I miss the staff, too. The hardest day was when the Chromebooks went out. You could tell it was hard on the students. Now, when they come [for packets or their sack lunch], they are super happy to see me and talk. They’re ready to come back.”
Holt, who will be the new principal at Douglas T. Orchard Elementary in West Valley City this fall, said she is excited to get acquainted with the students, parents and staff, though she admits that leaving Westbrook behind will be difficult.
“I am amazed at how well our staff interacts, the community support we have received and the positive environment we’ve made for the students,” She said. The positive changes the school has implemented say a lot about the teachers and staff, especially during this time of social distancing, Holt said. Many have told Holt that they feel “cheated” because of the abrupt closure.
“But we are learning to adapt,” she said.
A community celebration scheduled for the second week in May had to be cancelled.
A Facebook page gathered 400 RSVPs before cancellation occurred in May. Alumni names, memories and old photos were already gracing the page. And everyone was “really excited” about the activities in and out of the school, including dancing.
With the requirement of social distancing, a Wildcat Reverse Parade was scheduled for May 15. Teachers wore school colors, made signs and painted the sidewalk with chalk. There were no treats or candy but plenty of well-wishes and imagined hugs from a distance.
“We Miss Our Wildcats” signage was posted at the end of their short journey in their cars to see and say goodbye to their teachers and their school.
“For many teachers, this is the only place they’ve ever taught,” said Holt. “Some teachers have been here since the year we opened . It’s a hard way to end. The schooling is hard on parents. Teachers are revamping, but everyone is stepping up. I want to thank everybody.”