Our Five Ring Circus: The Last Day Of The Strangest School Year Ever

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Last Day Of The Strangest School Year Ever

Social Distancing School Year

If this had been a typical school year, we would have had our last day of school on Friday. The kids would have headed off to school that morning full of excitement. They would be anticipating the fun Summer ahead of them, but also a bit bummed to say goodbye to friends and beloved teachers. Once those tears were shed over the last goodbyes, they would have wiped them away, and we would have celebrated after everyone was home. We would have taken the traditional last day of school picture, where you can just SEE the excitement on their faces, and kicked off Summer Break with ice cream and summer gifts. But nothing about this school year was normal!

Instead, the last day of school as the knew it was March 13th. It ended so abruptly. Their belongings were left behind, and they didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. As they left school on that ordinary Friday, they had NO idea that their lives were about to be turned upside down. Students, teachers, and parents were thrown into unknown territory, and everybody's limits were tested over the next three months.

When social distancing first began, I think we all believed that life would be back to normal within a few weeks. But as the weeks ticked by, we began to lose hope, and sure enough, traditional schooling was done for the school year. Although there are so many worse things in life, I told my kids that it was okay to feel sad about the abrupt end of the school year. I have three kids who love school, and they were in the midst of wonderful school years with wonderful educators. They spent three long months missing their teachers and friends. Liam didn't have an open house or an art show. Lexie didn't have her Spring chorus concert or Medieval Fair. Field Trips and Field Days were canceled. The last few exciting weeks of the school year never happened. Yearbooks and class shirts never got signed. There was absolutely NO closure, and that's a tough thing to process!
Schooling during Covid-19

Instead of having the last day of school on Friday, it was moved up to June 5th. We spent what would have been the last week of the school year returning school items and retrieving personal items from each building. The kids (and mom and dad) were excited to be done with online learning, but feeling very bummed about everything they missed out on this year. The excitement level wasn't very high, because they have been home since March 13th. Nothing felt new, different, or exciting, and there was never any closure to the current school year. It was just...done.

At the beginning of this school year, I sent four kids off to public school. I never expected to have one child enrolled in cyber school in November, and never EVER expected to have all the kids learning at home in March. What an unexpected, strange, sad, and bittersweet school year. It was very emotional and difficult for everyone, and I have to say, I'm glad it's over. I'm praying for some normalcy as they head back to school at the end of August!

My older kids asked me why I wanted to take a last day of school picture, or share a last day of school post. Yes, this year was far from ideal. Yes, this year was difficult and uncertain. Yes, they missed out on so much this school year. So why am I sharing? Because they still went to school for most of the year, and had so many good moments. But mostly because it's a school year that all of us will remember forever!

Pittsburgh Blog

Here's a quick recap of the 2019-2020 school year...

We had no idea what was in store for us as we sent our crew off to 1st Grade, 3rd Grade, 7th Grade, and 9th Grade! It was the first day of high school for Dylan, and the first day of Middle School for Lexie. 

The First Day of School


Dylan started high school this year, and it didn't go as expected. Recently, I shared the story behind why we pulled Dylan out of public school, and enrolled him in cyber school. From November 2019 until June 5th, he stayed home, and did all his schooling virtually. (I get a lot of questions about how it works, so I think I'm going to share that in a separate post.) Dylan was supposed to get out of school a week earlier than his younger siblings, but it ended up being the same day.

9th Grade


Lexie LOVES school, and she excelled this year. She made high honor roll for the first three nine weeks, and she became very involved in volunteering at school. She was in chorus, and was debating joining track when school closed. She is wise beyond her years, and has such a sweet personality, so she was well loved by her teachers. 

Lexie hated online learning, and really struggled with it. She just wanted to back at school with her friends and teachers, and had a difficult time adjusting to staying home full time. She did her best, but it just wasn't the same!

7th Grade


Lily is smart, sweet, and social, and she loves going to school every single day. It's very unusual for her to miss a day of school, and we have to force her to stay home when she is sick. This year, she had an amazing third grade teacher. She always said Mrs. M was the BEST TEACHER EVER, and even though my kids have been blessed with so many incredible teachers in our district, I have to agree. 

The day before school closed for good, Lily's class had a Living History Museum during their Open House. It was such a fun event, and I'm so glad we got to experience it before the chaos hit! Lily, being the independent, quirky, confident girl that she is, decided to be Albert Einstein!

Parenting blog

Lily had the most difficult time adjusting to distance learning. She began to develop anxiety at home, and yelled at us, and her computer every time she worked. Despite continuing to excel at school (my girl is stubborn and determined), it was truly a traumatic experience for her, and she just wanted to be back at school with her beloved teacher and her friends. 

When I say Lily's teacher went above and beyond during distance learning, I mean it. We couldn't have done it without her. She knew we were juggling a lot with Liam's virtual learning schedule and therapies, so she tried to cater her Google class meetings to Lily's schedule, and when those times didn't work, she had private meetings with Lily. She set up one on one meetings when Lily had tough days, and even gave us her personal phone number so Lily could contact her as needed. She checked in daily, and responded to every single email immediately. She even stopped by our house with a gift for Lily at the end of the year. She is one of those teachers that I wish Lily could just stay with forever, and Lily shed quite a few tears after their last online class meeting, and again, after she waved goodbye on the last day of school. Even though the year didn't turn out expected, Lily was blessed with an incredible teacher who tried to make distance learning feel as normal as possible!

3rd Grade


We sent Liam to first grade feeling very apprehensive about everything. We weren't even sure where he would be until the day before school began! We were so sad to hear both of his special ed teachers left our district, but everything worked out. 

His general ed teacher was wonderful, and already knew him from seeing him in the hallways in Kindergarten. He immediately recognized her when we went to see his classroom before the year began, and gave her a big hug. She is just one of those teachers that every kid hopes to have!

The new special ed teacher was just as wonderful, and she, too, went above and beyond during distance learning. And Liam had the best para in the world, who was with him at all times. He adored Ms. T, and as his mom, I did, too! She came out to the parking lot to greet him every morning. No matter the weather, she crouched down and gave him a hug. She made him feel special, and she made school fun for him. 

When you have a child with extra needs, who also has a speech delay, it's tough. All I can say is that I am so thankful he had a team who loved him for me when I wasn't there. He was always enthusiastically greeted with love and kindness by the entire staff, and I felt safe leaving him there. That is a true blessing! 

But online learning...

It just didn't work for Liam. He thrives in a school setting, and couldn't understand why he couldn't be with his teachers, paras, and therapists. He didn't understand why we were staying home. And he couldn't grasp the concept of online school at home. His special ed teacher showed up for a Zoom meeting every single morning at the same time. She tried so hard to make it feel somewhat normal for her students. Liam ended up fighting the sessions, running away screaming when it was time for therapy, and refusing to do most of his assignments. Juggling daily sessions, plus a weekly class general ed class meeting, plus 5 therapies a week was a LOT, and we eventually cut back. 

At this point, I'm not sure what's going to happen when he goes back to school. I am absolutely torn on whether we should fight to have him repeat first grade or not. But yet again, that's a topic for another post! Either way, he's DONE, but we are sad to leave his school, and his amazing teachers and paras behind!

Down syndrome

Celebrating the last day...

The end of the year was nothing like it should have been! Our district worked so hard make the end of the school year special, and I think it's a tradition they should have every single year. This year, they had a goodbye parade. The K-6 teachers lined the road leading to the school campus on the last day of school, and we were able to drive through to say goodbye. The teachers had signs and noisemakers, and sent the kids off to Summer Break, and the next grade level, as they drove through. 

I'm not going to lie - I was holding back tears! My kids loved it! Even Lexie had a great time waving to her former teachers. And Liam's expression when his teacher walked up to our window was PRICELESS. I thought it was so special, and such a great way to end the year.

Last Day of School Traditions

Lily had already said goodbye to her teacher in person, but I was sad Liam wouldn't be able to. Shortly after the parade ended, Liam's special ed teacher texted to see if she could stop by to see him. I was just heading to the store to get his milk, so we met her in the parking lot. He was so excited to see her again, and just kept hugging her. 

This past week, I had to take Lexie to her school to check her locker (she cleaned it out on March 13th after hearing rumors), return her device and textbooks, and pick up her projects. It was so weird to get a temperature check before entering the building, and walk around in masks. As we walked out of her school, Lexie's eyes filled with tears and she said it really made her feel so sad about how much she missed and how much life has changed.

The following day, I did the same thing with Lily. We wore masks in the building, we were only allowed to enter the cafeteria, we returned her library books, and picked up a garbage bag full of the stuff she left behind and everything she used during the school year. The entire year, tied up in one bag, including class shirts that were never worn or signed. She was very quiet after we left, then carefully looked through the bag. She told us a story behind every single item, and there was so much emotion in her voice as she spoke. She told me she wished she wasn't smart so she could fail and be in Mrs. M's class again next year. She said she missed out on too much this year. All I could do was give her a big hug!

For Liam's building, we just waited in a line outside of the school. We handed over school items, and waited for his belongings to be brought to our car. Two giant garbage bags came home with us, and I'm still making my way through them. That day, all of the paras who worked with him were running the collection and retrieval. They were so bummed I didn't bring him, so I ran home, picked him up, and drove him through the line. As they all crowded around the car window to talk to him and dance with him, I was overcome with emotion over how much he is loved at school. His amazing para was there (and is expecting her first baby), and a smile lit up his face when he saw her. He tried to get out of the car to go into the building, just like he did every morning. We couldn't get out of the car to give hugs, and there ended up being a LONG line of cars behind us, so we had to go, but it truly made Liam's day. He talked about Ms. T and school all day!

Dylan's year didn't really end with any excitement. He only has a virtual connection to his teachers and classmates, so there wasn't an emotional attachment whatsover. As to what next year holds for him, we think he might be heading back to public school, but now know that cyber school is a great option!

Big Family Blog

(I do have pictures with teachers, but I usually only share photos with family members or close friends on my blog for privacy.)

The 2019-2020 school year was certainly memorable! We all wish it would have turned out differently, but my kids were blessed to spend 6 months in the classroom with their wonderful, caring educators. They will always remember the year that school ended abruptly in March, left them stuck home for months on end, and introduced them to two new teachers - the internet and mom! But just for the record, we are praying for a quick return to normal, traditional schooling!!!

The Last Day of School

How was distance learning for your child(ren)?

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