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Lyter students return for belongings, goodbyes

As the vehicles moved along the street at the entrance to Lyter Elementary School in Montoursville Saturday morning, voices called out “Have a great summer” and “See you next year!”

The goodbyes, called out by the students being driven by as well as the teachers sitting under canopies, waiting with gift bags for the kids, were part of a procession marking the end of a school year that was put on hold by the pandemic and the shutdown of in-person education for all the schools in the state.

“We wanted to have a way to return students’ belongings,” said Darrin Feerrar, principal at Lyter, “but we also wanted to do it in a fun and celebratory way.”

“In such a unique situation, the whole staff got to see the kids and wish them a good summer,” he added.

When schools initially closed in March, at first there was no indication that the shutdown would last until the end of the school year, so teachers and students both were surprised when the word came from the governor that all in-person learning was canceled.

For one teacher at the school, this day marked not only the end of the current school year, but the end of her teaching career.

Patty Bower had taught third grade at Lyter for 27 years, and spent three years in the Williamsport Area School District before that as a first grade teacher.

For Bower, saying goodbye to her students this year was even more difficult.

“It was really hard because you look forward to, after the testing is over, that last month of May and all the special things you get to do with the kids, all the fun things. They missed so much of that type of stuff that is still learning,” she said.

“We always go to Weis Market to learn about nutrition, but they didn’t get to do that. I make scrapbooks for the kids. We usually do that after testing and get those done for the year. I made those up for the kids, but they’ll have to do that at home. It’s just not the same. They left and I never got to say goodbye,” Bower added.

Bower did say that her retirement plans include substitute teaching at Lyter in order to see her students from this year that she missed saying goodbye to.

Vehicles in the procession would stop at the student’s homeroom teacher’s canopy to receive not only well wishes for the summer, but also a nice gift.

The teachers had worked with the PTO to put together what Feerrar called a “Sunshine Gift Basket” of items for the kids. Inside were T-shirts, bright yellow and emblazoned with “Together or Apart, You’re Always in Our Hearts,” which each teacher wore on this sunny morning. Also included were goodies, such as candy and chips, a bubble wand, sidewalk chalk and the student’s yearbook.

Area merchants had also donated gift certificates for the students.

The fire department and borough officers and officials made sure the traffic moved through the line safely.

“It was a team effort, it truly was,” Feerrar noted.

Looking ahead to the fall, Feerrar indicated that everyone is hoping for a return to normal.

“We’ll be just following the guidelines from the governor and the Department of Education. We’re looking to see what guidelines they’re giving us and seeing if we’re able to do in-person,” Feerrar said.

“Whether we’re remote or whether we’re back in the building, we want to make sure our education is the high quality we expect,” he stated.

First-grade teacher Amy Rinker, as she waved to a student being driven by, said of her hope for the fall, “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s back to normal as much as possible.”

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