Brookville teachers continue annual ‘clap-out’ for students

In the chaos following last year’s Memorial Day tornadoes, nobody thought about the annual Brookville Elementary School “clap out” – nobody, that is, except the third-graders who missed out on the beloved tradition.

It’s a ritual in which teachers and younger students applaud the third-graders as they leave the building for the last time, transitioning to Brookville Intermediate School. The parents form a tunnel at the exit, cheering the children on to a new chapter in their lives.

“It’s a wonderful tradition that kids look forward to every year,” said Principal Shawn Thomas. “We couldn’t do it last year because of the debris. And then we thought, ‘Oh my goodness, is this going to be canceled a second year in a row?’”

Families were so disappointed by the cancellation of last year’s “clap out” – a custom that has been going on for nearly 20 years — that they revived the ceremony social-distancing style. Brookville police officers and firefighters led the parade, lights and sirens flashing. Teachers gathered in the grassy circle inside the school’s circular driveway, waving their goodbyes and good wishes as families drove past, one by one, in their cars.

“We stayed in the car, and I didn’t think I would get as emotional as I did,” said Julie Russell, whose daughter, Hannah, 8, is one of the graduates. “But I got choked up seeing my daughter hanging out of the window and saying goodbye to her teachers.”

Recalled Hannah, “I said, ‘Thank you’ to my teachers, because they helped me a lot. It was really fun, because I got to see all the teachers again, but it made me sad, because I won’t get to see those teachers every day any more.”

Each third-grader was given a goody bag with candy and a bracelet accompanied by a note instructing students to put it on they are feeling down. “We are a team!” the note declared. “Even when apart, we are linked together and we can face tomorrow. Together forever!”

“A lot of time and effort went into making these moments for our kids and making them memorable,” Russell said. “These traditions are very much valued in our community.”

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