GEORGETOWN — As a long line of cars wound around Highland Hills Middle School, teachers and staff cheered and waved as students passed by with their families.

Students weren’t able to spend their last day of middle school with their teachers and classmates, but on Thursday, the middle school presented a farewell parade for departing eighth graders to honor their achievements as the students prepare for high school.

The parade circled the building as the school recognized the eighth grade class, which includes 472 students.

As families drove up in their vehicles, eighth graders received yearbooks and Floyd Central High School T-shirts, and teachers and staff lined up on the sidewalk (while practicing social distancing) to greet them as they passed by.

Highland Hills Principal Wendy Ivey is glad to provide some sort of closure for the end of the year, even if it’s not what exactly what students or staff were hoping for.

“It’s worth every minute of it to do this,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for this for eight weeks. The halls have been very quiet, and it has been very sad.”

Ivey wants students to know how much they care and love them, she said.

“This has been just as devastating to us — we can’t believe how many kids have come and said, ‘I never thought I would miss school, but I miss school so much,’” she said.

Dawn Boling, a seventh grade math teacher at Highland Hills, was among the teachers greeting the students.

“It’s nice to be able to let the students know that we care about them, and I know that it’s been very, very hard for us and them the last several weeks. There’s been a lot of stress with everything, and it’s nice to let them know that they mean a lot to us and just to be able to share in the celebration they didn’t really get to have.”

Boling hopes the students understand what they are capable of during a difficult situation.

“I’m hoping what they’re learning through this is the life skill of being able to handle circumstances when they come your way, and I hope they can see they can still be successful when things like this happen,” she said. “It’s all a matter of determination and caring for one another and that kind of stuff — that no matter what happens, we all get through it.”

Nejiva Aknad, a departing eighth grader, rode with her father in the farewell parade. After weeks of learning at home, it was nice to see familiar faces, she said.

“It’s been kind of boring, and I’ve wished I could see my teachers, because it’s a lot easier seeing them in class,” she said.

Eighth grader Rose Jones liked having the chance to visit the school and to see friends and teachers from a distance before heading on to high school.

“It’s a chance to say goodbye to the school, because I’m going to be in ninth grade next year, and it’s probably my last time being here,” she said.

Julie Stewart, who teaches eighth grade English at Highland Hills, said it’s been tough not being able to say a proper goodbye to students, and she wanted to let them know the teachers haven’t forgotten about them.

“On our last day of school, we thought we’d be back, and we thought we would see them, so we didn’t give the normal goodbyes that we normally would,” she said. “This is nice to put a little bit of closure on the year.”

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