TWENTYNINE PALMS — “Good morning Oasis Bobcats, this is Miss Amber with the makeshift morning announcements!”
Every weekday morning Amber Harman, president of the Oasis Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, posts a video of herself on the PTO Facebook page reciting morning announcements, like those the students heard in their classrooms before school closed.
“This is something simple and easy that we can do that A, gets the word out about different updates and B, comes from a voice that kids know. It’s a familiar face that’s consistent,” said Harman, who also works and coaches at the Twentynine Palms school.
“At first I thought, ‘This will be a one- or two-day thing and they’ll get tired of seeing me, but I’ve gotten messages about it. It’s that routine that everybody craves.”
Harman stands, holds up an American flag and leads the Pledge of Allegiance. On Monday she told the families they could pick up packs of hot food outside the school.
“Friday alone they handed out 400 meals to people. That is amazing,” she told her audience. “Thank you very much to our nutritional services crew. We really appreciate you guys.”
She announces birthdays and reminds the kids to look out for pictures later that day of a bobcat stuffed animal positioned somewhere in school. Students can comment with guesses on where it might be.
“Be on the lookout for those silly bobcats! They’re making their way through campus,” Harman said Monday. “There’s no kids there to keep them in one spot so they’re kind of roaming the place.”
The mascot photos were Principal Jeremy James’ idea. “That was a Mr. James original,” Harman said.
This week they plan to ask kids to name the mascot.
“I think it is important as one of the ways of staying in touch with our families,” James said.
At Yucca Valley Elementary School, the mascots are also a featured part of the Facebook page now. Photos show a group of stuffed animals having the run of the school, with Principal Celeste Wahlberg’s smiling face among them.
“Oh no! Monkey, what are you doing up there?!” Wahlberg wrote above a picture of the monkey mascot hanging out of a basketball hoop.
YVES also announced an online Spring Challenge that uses Khan Academy and Lexia, organizations that provide online education.
Students who complete online learning “missions” geared to their grade level will get school swag bags and T-shirts.
At the Onaga PTO page, moderators remind everyone about the grab-and-go meals, answer questions about work packets and post messages to the Thunderbirds like “Stay safe and stay smiling!”
A thread of families posting their home learning ideas garnered 67 comments, showing Onaga students working on reading, math and science.
Harman said the school and PTO Facebook pages are hubs of connection and information during the quarantine.
“It’s a good resource and tool for finding out information. A lot of the stuff on pages is kind of hearsay or it’s all in different places. This way it’s all together in one place. If you have a question, it’s answered pretty quickly.”
Harman ends some of her makeshift morning announcements with a heartfelt message to the Oasis kids: “As always, Bobcats … still follow the Bobcat way, which is take care of myself, take care of this place and learn with tenacity and grit. All right guys, stay safe out there. Make wise choices!’