WEST ORANGE, NJ — Following Gov. Phil Murphy's announcement that public schools would remain closed through the remainder of the academic year, the staff of Hazel Elementary School in West Orange reached out to its students to spread the love at a special community parade in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week.

"It was a spectacular event," said Hazel Principal Ana Marti. "We had about 40 cars all decorated with positive messages, balloons and ribbons, and teachers, office personnel, nurse, head custodian, lunch aides and paraprofessionals all participated."

Members of the West Orange police and fire departments provided an escort for the celebratory caravan as it weaved through the Hazel neighborhood in a unique route that took them past the house of every Hazel student.

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Although the parade took about two hours to complete, Marti said that the “faces of the students and parents, the tears that we saw in some faces, the clapping, the beautiful posters thanking the teachers and the amount of ‘I Love You's’ that [the staff] heard made it all very, very special.”

"The community came out in great numbers,” she said. “Everyone came out to cheer. We saw a young couple outside their house with a newborn and a poster that read, ‘Future Hazel Student.’ We also saw many senior citizens on their front porches waving and clapping. This parade made their day, but it made ours as well.”

The parade was made possible by school counselor Leila Tirado-Smith, art teacher Michelle Ledesma, third-grade teacher Stacey Varanelli and office assistant, Paula Goncalves-Healy along with the police and fire personnel.