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HUNTINGTON — Rain or shine, teachers and staff at two Cabell County schools were determined to say goodbye to their students for the summer Thursday with drive-by parades.

Teachers at Southside Elementary School in Huntington lined the sidewalks outside the school as students and their families drove by one last time in honor of the last official day of class.

“We’re cheering on the kids. We want them to decorate their cars — it’s suggested that they show their school pride, play celebration music,” said Kristen Austin, third-grade teacher at Southside. “And, of course, we’re all standing 6 feet apart and waving.”

Despite the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, Austin said she’s managed to keep in contact with her class of 18 students throughout the duration of the school closures.

“We have Zoomed twice a week, and we’ve done a couple scavenger hunts. One was for Earth Day and they had to find different things outside, so that was fun,” she said. “It’s something we would have done in the classroom, but that didn’t happen this year.”

Austin said she even found a nonprofit animal rescue that allowed teachers to “rent” farm animals to join in on the Zoom calls.

“We love animals in our classroom — we have two guinea pigs as pets — so we rented farm animals to join us,” she said. “It was really cool to see all the animals and hear the stories about how they ended up on the farm.”

And although Austin said as a Southside resident she often sees her students out walking or playing with their families, it’s hard on everyone to continue social distancing.

“It’s difficult not to be able to hug them,” she said.

Central City Elementary School in Huntington held a similar drive-by event Thursday, and Principal Jody Sowards said he hopes it helped the students end the year on a positive note.

“We wanted to have that closure for them, with the kids creating memories for them, their families and our staff,” he said. “Who knows what the school year is going to look like for this coming fall, so we just wanted to have one last thing for our kids.”

Sowards said the school also put on a socially distanced graduation for its fifth-graders Wednesday to recognize their transition to middle school.

“We had them walk through, and that was pretty cool, too, just to get that opportunity with the kids and their parents and to have something positive during all this,” Sowards said. “The rain even held off for our little window of time.”

Students in Cabell County are tentatively scheduled to return to school Aug. 13.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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