It was all smiles, purple hair and multicolored tutus May 7. That’s when Head Start in Enterprise and Wallowa held unconventional graduation ceremonies for their charges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with everything else, Head Start has been closed since March on state orders in order to maintain social distancing for fear of the coronavirus outbreak. No cases have emerged in Wallowa County.

Thursday would have been the normal last day for 3-year-olds, while the 4-year-olds were scheduled to attend through June 30, said Lisa Collier, Head Start education manager for Wallowa and Union counties. Children turning 5 in time will go on to kindergarten in the fall.

But there was no fear Thursday, as workers smiled, danced and sang to their outgoing students as they handed out completion certificates, packets of “readiness materials” for the kids going into kindergarten, “summer fun buckets” and resources for the children’s families.

Among those resources, Collier said, were toilet tissue, food, soap, hand sanitizer and “anything a family discloses that they need.”

She said Head Start workers have been delivering such items to their students’ homes weekly since the coronavirus forced school closure.

Collier said 20 students who live from Wallowa to Wallowa Lake were invited to the drive-through graduation at the Head Start center on NW 1st Street. She said they planned to drive to the home of any child who was unable to come to graduation, “so nobody misses out.”

Earlier Thursday, in Wallowa and Lostine, another 17 students were included in a “reverse parade,” where workers drove to each of their homes to present the items. It was evident the workers were doing their best to give the kids an upbeat experience.

“We sure miss them,” Collier said. “This is not the ending we were hoping for and we hope it’s special for them.”

It appeared it was special and the feeling of missing each other was mutual. Not only did the kids enjoy going through the fun buckets and other materials, some — like young Ellie Washington — sported a heart-shaped sign that said, “I miss you so.”

Collier deemed the day a success.

“It’s such a positive thing. It’s fun,” she said. “And right now, we need positivity.”

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