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Annual bell-ringing tradition strikes new tone this year

  • Beaver Meadow School graduate Daniel Colby rings the bell outside the school on Wednesday as teachers, administrators and parents helped students celebrate the end of school year. Colby will be starting at Rundlett Middle School in the fall. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/4/2020 12:24:49 PM

Graduating fifth graders at Beaver Meadow School participated in a drive-through version of a long-standing school tradition Wednesday, which organizers say was a way to honor their achievements even during the pandemic.

The annual bell-ringing ceremony, where fifth grade students process through the school and take turns ringing the bell above the building entrance, is a rite of passage that normally takes place on the last day of school, marking the end of the elementary years and a commencement to middle school. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept the school building closed since March 16, the ceremony couldn’t happen as usual.

Instead, parents and teachers organized a different version Wednesday. Students were driven up to the front of the building in cars, where they were greeted by Principal Michele Vance, Assistant Principal Leigh Childs and parent volunteers. They were then handed gloves and a mask and got the opportunity to pull the rope to ring the school bell. As each student was driven away, with a cupcake and a “middle school survival” goodie bag in hand, they passed through an avenue of teachers, standing 6-feet apart in the parking lot, waving on either side.

Vance said it was an emotional experience for her to be able to see her students in person again, after months of remote learning.

“Some of these kids look forward to doing this from when they come here, in kindergarten,” Vance said. “It’s such a huge tradition.”

Staff and volunteers cheered the students on as they pulled the bell rope, with varying degrees of success.

“You had to pull down on the wooden stick, and that was kind of hard at first, to get it to pull down,” said Natalee Rowell, 10, one of the fifth graders who participated in the ceremony. Rowell said it was nice to see all her teachers, and she liked the opportunity to be cheered on as an individual this year, instead of part of a group.

Rowell’s mother, Lori Rowell, is co-president of Beaver Meadow School’s parent-teacher organization. She said holding the ceremony is especially important this year, since the students lost so much school time due to the pandemic.

“I think we tried to create an atmosphere that was celebrating them,” Rowell said. “Even thought we can’t be together, we tried to show them that we are all in this together. We tried to be safe with this, but we want them to know that is just as important.”

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