BARNEGAT, NJ – The faculty and staff at the Lillian M. Dunfee School already knew that the end of the 2019-2020 would be difficult. After all, with the planned reconfiguration, it would not just be fifth graders leaving their school family. COVID-19 may have shut down classrooms. However, it did not stop an exchange of farewells – albeit with social distancing in place.
According to Michele Cucinotta, Dunfee School Counselor, the idea came from a couple of teachers. The school’s art teacher, Tara Larsen, and Carrie Lioudis, a basic skills teacher called her to work out a plan.
“That’s it? This is how the year is going to end?” Cucinotta recalls the conversation starting with her colleagues. “We can’t just let this happen this way. We need to do something special.”
After some discussions, the group decided on what they named a “reverse drive-by.” Cucinotta says she spoke to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis about the event. Latwis offered his support and helped get the message out to Dunfee families.
“We agreed on the normal precautionary measures,” said Cucinotta. “The faculty and staff would all stay at a social distance. The children and their families all needed to remain in their cars.”
Yesterday, nearly three dozen faculty and staff members stood outside in front of the school. They were armed with signs and enthusiastically waved as 84 cars filled with Dunfee families inched past them.
Some of the cars were decorated with signs. Drivers blew their horns. The farewell had a strange mix of a melancholic mood, tinged with excitement. Amid the pandemic, there were no final hugs. The virtual ones brought tears as all left the surreal.