Though they had few opportunities to see one another in flesh throughout the 2020-21 school year, seven of eight graduating pupils from Laurel Prescott’s all-remote kindergarten class gathered Tuesday morning for a graduation ceremony that featured them reading, singing and sharing their future career plans.

“When I grow up, I want to be a cop because I want to arrest bad guys,” announced one boy to the amusement of parents assembled to celebrate their childrens’ accomplishments. (Four of the youngsters classmates announced that they, too, are looking forward to careers in law enforcement.)

Despite not being used to presenting in public rather than online, the seven poised children controlled their nerves while demonstrating their reading abilities and knowledge of complex geometric shapes during the event, held on the front lawn of Ridge View Elementary.

While only two of the pupils could read at the beginning of the school year, all of them are readers now, Prescott said.

Asked how it was possible to teach small children such difficult skills entirely online, Prescott admitted it was “a little bumpy” at first, but with the help of parents, everyone developed a workable routine.

“It was a good challenge,” Prescott said. “If they weren’t focused on the screen, I knew it was time to wrap up the lesson and let them take a screen break.”

But giving credit where it was due, Prescott said it was the parents opting to enroll their youngsters in the all-remote class who were key to the success of the unusual educational situation.

“Every year I try to make parents understand that we’re in a partnership in education, but this year was different,” she said. “These parents were very highly, highly committed to making this work.”

Prescott said she started the year with 16 students in class. Two moved out of Belgrade, and others switched to in-person classrooms as the year went on, but eight stalwart families stuck it out to finish the school year remotely.

After the ceremony, a few of the parents admitted they that being teachers at home represented a significant commitment.

Holly and Jeb Vandervos, who welcomed a new baby in November, said they staggered their work schedules and enlisted the help of grandparents to ensure that their daughter was thriving in kindergarten.

Denice Link agreed that managing schedules of kindergarten, a younger sibling and a new puppy was “a lot of work.”

“I’m just amazed at the parents,” Prescott said. “Really, anything I told them they needed to work on with their student, they did.

“I know they’re probably exhausted, because otherwise they would have gone to college for being an educator, but this is their children,” she added. ‘I just think they did such a great job with their kids.”

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