Festive ‘disasters’ strike at Hurley Elementary

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 24, 2020

SALISBURY – December has been filled with festive carnage at Hurley Elementary School.

Overturned desks, toilet paper spread throughout classrooms and shaving cream graffiti decked the halls at the school as part of an elf’s devious, holiday-themed plot to do something fun. At the beginning of December, Principal Jennifer Brown emailed staff and told them she was no longer the principal: she would be a mischievous elf for the month.

The “disasters” happened every day before kids got to school; several staff members  pitched in to help with the plot.

“We just wanted to create really neat opportunities for our students to walk in and be shocked,” Brown said.

Students were given a hint every day to try and figure out who was behind the destruction. Brown had a co-conspirator, a star — literally — who was cast in cahoots with her elf.

Brown enlisted the help of her daughters as well. They drew shaving cream creations and they had to get creative because the schools go through an extra round of cleaning at night. They had to come in late, after the school had been sanitized, to spray their drawings.

The teachers all got involved with gift wrapping their classrooms.

Finally on Friday and Tuesday, depending on which group the students were in, all found out that Brown was behind the disasters. Students were welcomed to school those days by Santa, the star and Brown dressed as an elf, along with holiday music and machines sprinkling snow near the entryways as well.

Students were given a ticket to the North Pole, a bell and a candy cane when they walked in.

“It was just a fun way to welcome our kids into the building,” Brown said.

Brown said the focus remained on academics, but it gave the kids something fun when they first got to school each morning. Some classrooms guessed Brown was the elf ahead of time.

She said the staff has been working on the school’s culture to create an environment that makes kids want to come to Hurley Elementary, hopefully improving attendance and academic success as well.

Behavioral technician Dominic Gillion said Brown made the school a special place this season. Gillion was the star and got into some squabbles with the elf, including a snowball fight in the hallway. He rode a bike through the halls as the star as well.

Gillion said this was an uplifting experience and it felt like the school was transformed into an escape for the day.

“You just saw the magic behind all of this,” Gillion said, adding he thinks this kind of thing will become a tradition at Hurley.

Gillion said, overall, Hurley has been having a phenomenal year.

Fifth-grader Zachariah Dorley said the school made this month fun and exciting, but his favorite part of school is getting to spend time with his friends and teachers. He enjoyed the manufactured snow and said it got him into the Christmas spirit.

He said the school year has gone well, but he doesn’t like the COVID-19 precautions such as having to stay 6 feet apart, though  he understands the reasoning behind it. At first, he felt like he would not want to go to school every day of the week.

“As I spent more time with my friends and my teachers I realized I’d really want to go more,” he said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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