Barnum Woods students, teachers, and parents were dressed in red white, and blue to celebrate Flag Day on June 14. After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, elementary schools were excited to bring back a long-standing, community-favorite tradition.
Celebrated every year on June 14, Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the United States flag. This year Barnum took an extra step and had a brick and bench dedication ceremony in their courtyard.
“It is a celebration of the Barnum Community,” Superintendent of East Meadow Schools Kenneth Card said. “Schools have kept the Flag Day celebration alive.”
“It has morphed into this larger-than-life celebration,” Barnum Woods’ principal Gregory Bottari said. Police officers were also present at the event and ensured the safety of all attendees.
The engraved bricks and benches were donated to the courtyard by community members. The idea was the brainchild of the Barnum Woods Planning Management Team back in 2019, but due to the pandemic, the group had to delay its plans.
The Melnick family’s bench has the message, “You can sit with us,” engraved on it. “We can all use our power to make decisions to scoot over and make room for someone at our lunch table,” Jennifer Melnick said when discussing the anti-bullying message on her family’s bench.
Other benches are dedicated to family members and friends that have died, like Joshua Packman, a member of Barnum Woods’ class of 1988 who died from stomach cancer in 2016 at the age of 40. Stephanie Blakeman, a friend of Packman, called him a “talented guildie, an All-County singer, a Jet baller, and a peer leader.” “Barnum Woods would always remain his home base,” Blakeman said, “This was where his closest life relationships were formed.”
Another bench honors Andrea McKenzie, who died as a result of Covid-19 in 2020. “It was a very difficult time for my two sons, myself, and my family,” Stanley McKenzie, Andrea’s husband, said. “Barnum Woods was a great encouragement and support to us during the time of grief.”
These benches can now be used by anybody who visits Barnum’s courtyard.
After the ceremony, attendees took part in the annual Walk the Woods wellness walk, which was created in 2015 by fifth-grade teacher Gene Vassel and nurse Daryle Abeshouse to promote health and fitness. The beloved tradition consists of a double loop, roughly a mile, around the school.