Manatee County bids farewell to non-traditional school year with parade 

The last trip of the school year for bus drivers didn't include picking up or dropping off students. Instead, school buses in Manatee County brought transportation staff to students and teachers. 

"We had a lot of staff that wanted that opportunity to at least say goodbye to students," said Gary Sawyer the director of transportation and vehicle maintenance with the Manatee County School District. 

A line of buses drove by 15 schools throughout the county. They called it "Manatee Strong,” a farewell to a non-traditional school year. 

"The hardest part is not being able to see your kids," said Richard Daenell, a Lee Middle school teacher who watched from Bayshore High School. 

"It was definitely a good change in scenery,” Daenell said. “There’s so much negativity that goes with the whole COVID thing that seeing everyone smiling and happy it’s a good thing," he said. 

Standing down the way, eight-year-old Mason Elie held up a sign. "Some people are going to be retiring, some people won’t see their classmates again, their bus drivers again, it’s just sad," he said. 

For a few moments, the sadness disappeared. 

"My head was having joy, my body was having joy," said Elie. 

As the “Manatee Strong” parade traveled from Palmetto to Parrish and North West Bradenton, people lined the street and waved as the buses honked. 

"How I feel about it, coronavirus has hit a big impact on all of us,” Elie explained. “Not one person, but not 2 people, not 100 people can beat thins thing, All of us can beat this thing all together.”

They came together on what they hope will be the last, last day of school celebrated this way. 

"We are trying to show that we are here for our students and we are looking forward to being here in the Fall as well," said Doug Wagner the deputy superintendent of operations for the Manatee County School District.