Merritt Elementary hosts Summer Sendoff for students

NILES — Waves of cheers arose through the neighborhood surrounding Merritt Elementary School on Tuesday.

As each car passed, teachers waved to and cheered for their students being driven by the school. The school’s Summer Send-off event was underway.

In a tradition normally reserved for students’ last day of class, the staff and teachers gathered together in small groups along LaSalle Avenue in front of Merritt. Instead of waving to students peering out of yellow school buses, they waved to a slow parade of parents and guardians driving the students past. The teachers and staff members held signs of celebration and encouragement for the students and dressed in bright colors. The kindergarten through second graders peered their heads through the windows to smile, wave and celebrate with them. Some of the students’ cars had balloons or signs themselves.

Sara Gleason, kindergarten teacher at Merritt, cheered and wore a hat shaped like a colorful parrot.

Karen White, a second-grade teacher who is retiring this year, said the event was a good way to close out the year.

When COVID-19 arrived in Michigan, students’ last day in the classroom was March 13. At the time, neither students nor teachers knew it would be the last time they would be together in their classrooms for the year.

“We haven’t been able to connect with the kids,” White said. “We do this every year, but this year, it’s more special.”

According to Principal Matt Severin, who wore a colorful bow tie to the event, the Summer Send-off had many of the school’s students participate.

“There was 15 minutes of solid traffic,” Severin said of the procession. “We didn’t know what to expect at all.”

The event was pitched a couple of weeks ago. The two leading the way were the school’s secretary, Amanda Cousineau, and first grade teacher Colleen Dodd.

“It was emotional,” Cousineau said. “It’s been really hard. This was the closure that the staff and students needed. It was a school year that ended so abruptly.”

Severin said when the email was sent out suggesting the event, everyone showed up for the day.

“That’s this team,” Severin said. “They’re going to come together.”

As the cars stopped driving by, after about half an hour, the teachers began packing up their signs. Happy greetings and hugs were exchanged between the staff members as they readied to leave.

“It was a school year that ended so abruptly,” Cousineau said. “I was really happy we had such a good turnout.”

Berrien County

Berrien County Health department gets blunt on marijuana education, safety

Cass County

Two Dowagiac men sentenced Friday in Cass County Court

Cass County

Cass County works to expand broadband access

Edwardsburg

Ontwa Township passes 2.25 percent millage increase

Berrien County

Local talent development leader honored by Michigan Works! Association

Cassopolis

Cassopolis awards preliminary marijuana licenses

News

Niles police chief looks forward to continuing work with city, two departments

Cass County

North Pointe Center class partners with church for cemetery cleanup project

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 113,863 cases, 6,623 deaths

Cassopolis

Cass County to partake in annual Crop Hunger Walk

Brandywine Education

Performing Arts Workshops launches memorial fundraising campaign

News

Court of Appeals rules secretary Benson acted lawfully in mailing absentee voter ballot applications to registered voters

Dowagiac

SMC welcomes new dean of business, advanced technology

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Elks to host annual Guys & Dolls Golf Outing

Cass County

Michigan Works! closes central office, opens three new locations

Berrien County

MSP traffic stop data reveals need for deeper study

Berrien County

Ballard staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Cass County

Two arrested on meth charges in Pokagon Township

Berrien County

Lakeland Heart and Vascular earns testing reaccreditation by IAC

News

Court of Appeals: Absentee ballot mailers were lawfully distributed

Cassopolis

Our Father’s Family Keeper Ministries helps families in need during pandemic

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 113,863 cases, 6,623 deaths

Berrien County

PACE of Southwest Michigan celebrates National PACE Month, anniversary

News

City of Niles to begin hydrant flushing on Sept. 21