Schools all across Madison County have welcomed their students back onto their campuses in recent weeks — but not for classes.

Student parades, where families drive through the parking lot of the facilities to be greeted by teachers, staff and administrators, have been a welcome distraction from the COVID-19 crisis.

"It provides closure for them and us," Kirksville Elementary Principal Starla Browne said. "We miss them and their families. We wanted to be able to see their faces again."

The staff at Kirksville Elementary decided to do something a little different than other local schools. They spread their celebration out over an entire week.

Pre-K, kindergartener and first-graders came back to the school on Monday, while second- and third-graders returned for a visit on Tuesday.

The school's fourth-grade parade is set for Thursday and fifth-graders will be welcomed back for one last time on Friday.

Spreading out the celebration over four nights made it more special for each group of kids, cut down on traffic around the school (which is on a two-lane, rural road) and allowed teachers more of an opportunity to interact with the students from a safe distance.

"We were just worried about being able to get their things out to them — their belongings that were left behind," Browne said. "We thought we might need more time."

All the teachers, faculty and staff were wearing masks and gloves as they greet the students.

Kirksville also has yard signs with the name of all the fifth-graders placed in the grass in front of the school.

On Friday, those signs will be given to those families as part of the promotion parade for the students heading off to middle school next year.

"We are going to pull their signs out the ground before the parade and give them to them as they come through, so they can put them in their yards at home," Browne said.

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