“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear,” Buddy the Elf. Harrison School's The Little Reindeer play was filmed on Dec. 17. Area schools adapted to Covid and found ways to celebrate. See more on the Community page, B1. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATHLEEN JORGENSON/HARRISON SCHOOL

Christmas in county schools

School districts use virtual elements to keep the holiday spirit

This holiday season, school districts in Madison County moved their Christmas concerts and plays from the stage to the screen. Ennis, Alder, Harrison and Sheridan School Districts all opted to film students’ performances and distribute them to parents online. Twin Bridges School District had limited attendance and social distancing for in-school concerts.

Inside Ennis Schools, a combination of teachers’ phones, a camera and a recording camera were used for the filming.

“We are making little videos and putting those on our Google Classroom so that the families can enjoy seeing their children perform and instead of having them perform in our music room or in the gym, we have chosen different places all over campus,” Jessicca Allen, Ennis Schools K-2 music teacher, said.

Each grade performed a holiday song or two and students told jokes, read poems or recited their Christmas wishes as fillers in-between numbers. “It takes way more than just the two music teachers to do this this year. Everyone has been extremely helpful,” Allen said.

Half the cast of Harrison School’s first through fourth grade play was just getting out of quarantine when rehearsals started. They had one day to rehearse before recording last Thursday.

“I was very proud of them. They just soldiered on through and they were excited to do it and did it and were proud of themselves. It was probably the most difficult I have done,” Linda Ehlers, Harrison School music teacher, said in terms of Christmas plays.

Harrison’s play this year was called The Little Reindeer. It had many moving parts with students performing different roles and singing songs throughout. A couple roles had to be reassigned as students were quarantined on filming day. Fifth and sixth and high school band and the guitar class also recorded their Christmas songs the same day.

Even with these complications, going virtual was a good way to adapt Christmas concerts to a Covid holiday season, and had some extra bonuses.

“The good thing about it was that more people were able to see it,” Anthony Johnson, Sheridan Schools music teacher, said. After the first video was posted, it received about 200 views. Johnson said a concert typically has 350 people or so. This format allowed the show to reach family members that might not have been able to travel to see their grandchildren or nieces and nephews regardless of a pandemic.

The kids also got to feel like they were budding T.V. stars. “They liked that part,” Johnson said.

Virtual concerts involved less set up, tear down and audience members to distract students. Johnson said it was a little less exciting for the kids and their families, but students still dressed up in concert clothes and each grade performed their respective songs.

“And really, it’s all hilarity,” Ehlers said. Christmas shows are for the kiddos and expectations are for silliness and songs sung a little off-key.

“Just seeing the kids still get to do it and perform it and have a chance to dress up and have a good time with it. It wasn’t just taken away from them,” Shelby Kottal, Ennis Schools 3-12 music teacher, said was the best part.

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