Students from Summit Academy Community School – Parma are receiving surprise visits from their principals and teachers to bridge some of the gaps left by the pandemic and school closure. The caring educators are making Friday rounds to students’ homes, delivering drawings and upbeat messages, cards for youngsters celebrating birthdays, thank-you notes to families and even donuts. Batteries for smoke detectors – along with a reminder for families to replace old ones – have recently been added to the packages, each trimmed with a colorful ribbon.
So far, about 30 pupils have opened their doors to find school staff members on the other side bearing bundles of positivity since the “Just Because” visits began in late September.
“We want students to know we miss them and still care,” said Audrey Bell, Student Family Advocate for the school, which serves about 150 children in grades kindergarten through 12th. “Our students and families appreciate this small gesture. It really is the little things that mean so very much them.”
During this unprecedented time, Bell said students and their families have been in awe over the school staff members’ expressions of kindness.
Tina Seifer, parent of 11th-grader Seth and sixth-grader Dominic, said the “Just Because” visit her sons received was a delightful surprise. When Seifer got a call from school staff asking if they could drop off some things, she expected homework. The warm greetings the students received instead provided a welcomed reconnection.
“They were super surprised,” said Seifer, adding that her sons were happy to see the educators with whom they have formed close bonds over the years. “They are another set of adults they can look up to and talk to.”
Seifer added that “as unstable as the world is right now and days they [Seth and Dominic] want to be in school, they are making online [learning] work.” The personal visit, however, revived a connection they have missed.
Bharti Samant, mother of fourth-grader Om, said she is amazed by the overwhelming support her son and family have received from the school. When Principal Gina Pampanini-Tantash and Bell arrived at the Samant home with a package containing personal messages to Om from each of his teachers, including a handmade card featuring a cartoon character drawn by teacher Emily Quarrick, her son was thrilled.
“Om was so excited to see his teacher and principal. We were really amazed that the school is thinking so much about the kids, that they really care about them and the families as well,” Samant said. “The teachers are so nice. They connect with students so well. I feel they are amazing human beings. I am really impressed.”
Principal Pampanini-Tantash said the “Just Because” visits make all the difference not just in helping students, but her and her staff as well through pandemic days void of children’s feet scurrying down school hallways.
“Being able to see students, connect with them and talk with them, not only does it do a lot for our kids, it goes a long way on our end too because we miss the kids so much,” Pampanini-Tantash said. “Seeing them in person provides a little bit of much-needed ‘normal’ at this time.”
As long as Cuyahoga County COVID-19 safety standards allow safe travel, school staff plan to continue the weekly treks until all students have received a “Just Because” visit.