JES honors fifth graders with balloon release

Left to right: PE teacher Paul Beller and fifth grade teachers Julie Gill and Cheston Churchill joined Principal Mrs. Cheryl Gomez on Monday in a balloon release to honor the fifth grade students at Johnson Elementary School. The event honored and recognized the achievements of those students who are moving on to middle school in the fall.

With remote learning ending May 15, and summer right around the corner, Johnson Elementary School in Montrose made sure to send its students off in style.

Traditionally, Johnson’s fifth grade students would take part in continuation ceremonies, celebrating their advancement to middle school in the fall.

However, the pandemic halted those plans.

Instead, Johnson staff adjusted and participated in a balloon release to honor the fifth graders on Monday evening. Johnson Elementary Principal Cheryl Gomez, joined by PE teacher Paul Beller and fifth grade teachers Julie Gill and Cheston Churchill, took to the opportunity to give their parting students one last joyful experience.

Students were encouraged to write their favorite or most meaningful memory on an index card, which they gave to staff during packet drop off earlier in the day. The index cards were attached to the balloons.

With a parking lot full of fifth graders and their parents, Gomez released the balloons into the air, signifying the end to an unconventional school year, but also honoring the students elementary school achievements.

“The JES community of staff, students, and families is very close-knit. It was important to all of us that our fifth graders have a meaningful segue into their new roles as sixth graders,” said Misty Whitcomb, head secretary at Johnson.

Monday morning, Johnson held a packet drop off.

During the packet drop off, students handed off work they’ve completed since the shut down. Parents and their children, who were in their vehicles, were given material by Johnson staff that the students left behind.

Meanwhile, a nearby speaker played music. Johnson staff danced to the tunes, and parents and students reacted with wide smiles. Gomez was in a pink and white horse costume, leading the way with her dancing and creating an energetic atmosphere for the students to witness.

“I love what I do,” Gomez said. “I truly love what I do. And my staff indulge me. They’re wonderful and they follow along. We have an energetic staff at Johnson.”

The past few months have been tumultuous for students in not just elementary schools, but of all grade levels as they moved to remote and virtual learning environments due to COVID-19.

So, Johnson took the opportunity to show some school spirit and honor students, even with an unusual finish to the school year.

“At the end of the day, we want the kids to see that we care about them and that they're tradition of sharing their thoughts with us is still alive,” said Sherrie Drost-Chacon, assistant principal at Johnson Elementary.

“We want them to know how much we care and make it fun for them. This is a good feeling of community and fun amid [the pandemic].”

The process was an efficient choice as well, said Gomez, who cited parents being able to stay in the vehicle, staying outside, and a large student base as reasons why the school did the packet drop off.

Some teachers wrote letters to their students, which were included in the packets. Students could find resources for summer material in the packet as well, Gomez said.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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