Teachers, staff and firefighters left a trail of smiles through Solon Springs Wednesday, April 22, during the Solon Springs School District's inaugural Parade of Support. The cavalcade was led by bus driver Marvin Benedict.

“This is great,” he said. “Just get a chance to see the children again.”

Since Wisconsin was placed under a Safer at Home order in mid-March, the Solon Springs School District has been closed, its students learning from a distance. Last week, Gov. Tony Evers ordered schools to remain closed through the end of the school year.

Benedict is used to seeing the nearly 60 kids on his route every day.

“As a bus driver, you get to know their names,” Benedict said. “Saying good morning and telling them good night. I just miss them. I feel like I’m one of their grandparents, actually.”

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The parade followed Benedict’s bus route. It included four fire trucks, a tanker and two engines from the Solon Springs Volunteer Fire Department, a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office squad car, a Department of Natural Resources truck, an ATV and 41 staff vehicles. The school has 55 staff members.

“As we returned to school today, the staff I connected with were feeling so very happy they engaged with the Parade of Support,” said Solon Springs Principal Dene Muller. “This was truly an event that we needed as a school and a community to boost our spirits.”

Amanda Linden sticks photographs of fellow teachers to the bus as they get ready for the “Parade of Support” in Solon Springs Wednesday, April 22. The parade had staff from Solon Springs school and the Solon Springs volunteer fire department. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Amanda Linden sticks photographs of fellow teachers to the bus as they get ready for the “Parade of Support” in Solon Springs Wednesday, April 22. The parade had staff from Solon Springs school and the Solon Springs volunteer fire department. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

On one side of Third Street, third-grader Marcus Wetzel waited for the parade with his mom, Jennifer, and their dog, Cheeseburger.

“I’m excited to get outside, to get him outside, too, and away from his sister for a little while. That’s the social distancing that they need right now,” Jennifer Wetzel said.

They were looking forward to seeing Marcus’ teacher, Mrs. Jennings, and bus driver Benedict.

“We miss him,” Jennifer Wetzel said.

On the other side of the street, Lindsey Dobson waited on her front lawn with sons, Vincent Intiar, a second-grader, and kindergartener Christian Dobson. Each held a sign for their teachers to see.

The school bus came down the street, lights flashing, with pictures of teachers decorating its windows. The fire trucks sounded sirens and horns honked. Many of the cars were decorated with signs. The most common was, “We miss you.”

Lindsey Dobson wiped away tears and called out to passing teachers during the five-minute parade.

“I don’t know why I cried. I think it was just because it was so nice of them to do that,” she said. “We were so isolated, and the kids miss them so bad.”

Muller said she was happy to see everyone follow safe social distancing practices during the event, from the teachers in the parking lot to the families along the route.

The Solon Springs School District plans to hold two more parades to give all students a chance to take part. They will drive along the school’s western bus route April 29 and its northern bus route May 6. Both will begin at 2 p.m. Solon Springs firefighters plan to accompany them April 29; the Bennett Volunteer Fire Department will drive with them May 6.

“A few families have already communicated with me if it would be OK to find a place to view next week's Parade of Support,” Muller said. “'Absolutely,' is my response.”

Call 715-378-2263 or visit the Solon Springs School Facebook page for more information.