Students at Pelican Rapids High School were welcomed back to class with a chalk art mural in front of the school, designed and colored by a group of students and teachers who gathered on Labor Day to create it. The idea came from high school special education teacher Karla Breen, who wanted to do something meaningful to show students, especially seniors, that the school was excited to have them back in the building and that they will get through these unprecedented times together.
Aside from the pandemic, which meant students couldn’t finish the academic year together this past spring, Pelican Rapids lost two influential figures: Faith Westby, a student who passed away and would have been a senior this year, and late superintendent Ed Richardson, who passed away unexpectedly in April. “The purpose of the mural was to make a statement to the students that the teaching staff will go above and beyond to get them through this year,” said Breen. “We knew we wanted to include the positive messages and honor the legacy of both Faith and Dr. Richardson. Through our trials, the PRHS community has become unified. And, now in these uncertain times of COVID-19, our unity is our strength.”
The mural reads, “Unity is our strength,” as well as, “Faith over fear,” and, “Be awesome today” alongside a pineapple in memory of Richardson’s Oh My Pineapple (OMP) award. “The OMP award was given to staff who were going above and beyond the call of duty. As part of the recognition, Dr. Richardson would give the recipient a fresh pineapple. It was a sincere sentiment, with a playful twist. Dr. Richardson was an inspiration to us all. He saw every day as a new opportunity to, ‘be awesome today,’” says Breen.
Not all students are returning to school, though, as some have chosen to learn from home in light of the ongoing pandemic. “Diversity and Unity can only compliment each other in a nurturing environment. At Pelican Rapids Public Schools, we recognize the diverse nature of our student body as a strength. We strive to celebrate the different ideas and perspectives our students bring to the classroom,” Breen says. “This year, we recognize that our diversity includes students who can’t attend classes in person. They remain an important part of our school community as they distance learn.”
Since those students wouldn’t see the chalk art on their way into school, the school posted a short video of the mural online. “We want them to know we are thinking of them and that this project is for them too,” Breen says.