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Sean Friend joined the online dance party.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing students and staff to be working and learning from home, students at Union Ridge Elementary School got together to have fun in a socially distant way with a school-sized virtual dance party. 

In a normal year, the Union Ridge Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) holds fun events such as dances, movie nights and carnivals throughout the year. However, COVID-19 restrictions canceled many events, including two dances last spring. 

This year, the PTO held a virtual dance party for students. In a news release, PTO Co-President Perla Hauge said the idea for a virtual dance party came about because “(the PTO) had a large inventory of 80s dance things” and wanted to recreate a dance in a virtual way. Hauge then reached out to DJ Craig Brown at High Fidelity who had run a virtual dance over Zoom before for a smaller school. Because of Union Ridge’s size, Brown and the PTO had to brainstorm. 

Hauge spoke to the school district to get permission to stage the event as a Zoom webinar instead. Webinars divide a large group into panelists and attendees. Panelists are visible by everyone, but attendees are not. To make the dance something everyone could participate in, the PTO decided to let attendees use the “raise your hand” feature to notify administrators when they wanted to show off their dance moves. 

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The Parent Teacher Organization made a display so parents could drive through to pick up goodie bags before the dance.

Before the event began, the PTO created “dance party packs,” which included goodie bags with shuttered sunglasses, a glow stick and a snack for each student. Families picked up the bags from a drive-through display outside the school. 

On Thursday, Dec. 17, everyone joined the webinar for the online dance party. Hauge was pleased that nearly 200 kids participated in the event. 

“The dance party was a big hit,” she said in a news release. “Teachers, kids, parents, dogs, everyone had a blast. My second grader was especially tickled by learning the lawnmower and the shopping cart dance moves. He’s been doing them all morning.”

Lots of students and parents were grateful for the break in routine. Kelley Fuller-Friend posted on the PTO’s Facebook group, “What a fantastic dance party! A big thank you to Perla Hauge and Heidi McCoy-Rashoff and the entire PTO crew for all of your hard work and thoughtfulness. A great way to end a tough year.”

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First-grader Harper Rashoff was decked out for the virtual dance.

With the success of their virtual dance party, the PTO hopes other schools will consider hosting similar events. Hague said they are going to continue planning new online events for the rest of the school year. 

“We’re going to roll with it and do our best to bring our Tater Tots something new and fun,” Hague said. 

 

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