BUFORD — On Thursday and Friday, educators and staff from Buford High School were greeted with a special treat when they went out of their front doors.  In each teacher and staff member’s yard was a sign placed there by parents of the students that they serve.  

Buford parents raised money to buy signs to place in the yards of BHS faculty and staff to show appreciation of all that they do for Buford’s teenagers. Photo – Ashley Spence

Parents’ worlds were turned upside down following the closure of schools across the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Parents were suddenly forced to figure out how to juggle their own work and be a teacher to their children as schools turned to digital learning in an attempt to keep children learning for the remainder of the school year.

It has not just been parents and the children having to adjust to this new reality.  Teachers and administrators suddenly had to adapt and make lesson plans that could be done online.  While some school systems occasionally had digital learning days when inclement weather forced school closures, Buford City Schools had yet to implement online learning.  This was completely new to them. Yet in a matter of days, the school system formulated a game plan and digital learning began.

Teachers and administrators have been innovative in coming up with ways to engage with their students online.  Teachers have gone above and beyond to make sure that their students were still learning and had what they needed to get their work done.  Many teachers are parents and now had to not only teach their class in ways that they had never done so before and juggle having their own children at home to take care of.  

Administrators have spent many long days stressing over how to keep the young minds that they are responsible for engaged and learning while trying to balance what teachers and their infrastructure can handle.  Schools often provide more than just an education to their students.  Some families depend on the meals that schools provide their children.  The schools recognized this and countless staff have worked tirelessly to prepare meals for children and have delivered these meals to the children in the community.

The Buford community has always banded together in times of adversity and this time has been no different.  Parents have offered one another advice and support during this pandemic.  They have also recognized the tremendous effort that the Buford City School System has made to keep their students learning and taken care of. The principals in the four K-8 schools had extra funds in their budgets to be able to do something special for their faculty and staff, however, the high school did not.

Ashley Knutson Spence, the mother of a 9th grader and an 11th grader at BHS, made a post in a Facebook group full of Buford parents asking if anyone would be interested in making donations to buy signs to place in the yards of Buford High School teachers as a way to say thank you for all of their hard work and dedication.  

Angelee Garner, the 11th grade administrative assistant at Buford High School is smiling over the parents’ awesome gesture. Photo – Lori Nease

When asked what prompted her to start this endeavor, Spence replied, “I saw a post about signs being made for graduating seniors. A friend of mine commented saying he could make them for Buford teachers if there was interest. There was a ton of interest for the schools with younger students. However, high school teachers weren’t mentioned. So I put a post out there seeing if I could get any traction in getting the signs for high school teachers. There was plenty. Parents, like myself, now understand the challenges of teaching teenagers!  Encouraging them. Motivating them. Keeping them engaged. All while teaching them to a successful understanding of the topic. We all just wanted to show our appreciation.”

Initially, Spence had just planned on getting the signs for the teachers but the response was overwhelming. “With the amount of parents starting to rise I realized we had the teachers’ signs covered. So I took it another step higher. Could we raise enough to cover all of the support staff?  Administration, counselors, office staff, custodians, cafeteria, etc. And we did. I had over 30 parents contribute,” Spence said.

Jake Riza, sophomore (left) and Luke Riza, freshman (right) deliver a yard sign to Dr. Tim Harris (background) as a thank you from the parents of Buford High School. Photo – Ann Riza

Spence set about obtaining the addresses of every faculty and staff member at BHS and organizing delivery routes.  The parents once again stepped up and twelve parents volunteered to take a route to deliver the signs.  Those volunteers set out on Thursday and Friday to deliver the signs.

Buford High School faculty and staff took to social media to express their gratitude for the signs.  Photos of their signs and messages thanking the parents for doing this for them could be seen on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. One teacher that expressed her appreciation of the gesture was Kimberly Staples, the theatre director at BHS. “The yard sign was a reminder to me about what makes Buford such a special place. Regardless of what’s going on around us, we focus on what’s important: people!” expressed Staples.

A special thank you to Brian Karr with SafetyNet Promotions as he offered a generous deal to Ashley Spence to be able to provide everyone at the high school with the yard signs.  Also, a big thank you to the parents who rallied and supported this endeavor.  Last but not least, thank you to the amazing faculty and staff at the Buford City School System for their tremendous efforts day in and day out to shape the city’s youth into the best they can be.  #BufordStrong


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