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Holiday cheer, Santa and a candy cane chute awaited students at Lake Otis Elementary’s school supply pick-up

  • Author: Emily Mesner
  • Updated: December 16, 2020
  • Published December 16, 2020

Indian Education Youth Development Tutor Debra Wright, left, and Librarian Misty Nelson pose as a student takes a photograph of them from a car outside Lake Otis Elementary School in Anchorage on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Holiday music played from speakers as staff at Lake Otis Elementary School worked hard Wednesday to bring smiles to students’ faces as they picked up school supplies curbside.

Since August, every Monday and Wednesday, families have picked up library books, school work, craft activities, Chromebooks and food from the elementary school for students, school librarian Misty Nelson said.

This Wednesday, the event was sprinkled with holiday cheer.

Sixth grade teacher Marisa Latico dressed up in a Rudolph onesie, Shelley Atkinson, the school counselor, donned a vibrant unicorn sweater, while Nelson wore a pair of elf-themed red-and-green overalls and a Santa hat.

“It gets smiles on kid’s faces, staff faces, everyone’s happy,” said Derrick Kubosh, who works as tech support for the Anchorage School District. “Especially this year. There’s a lot of families who just need a little boost.”

Kubosh, dressed as Santa Claus, passed out colorful mini candy canes to students from a chute that he and “the elves at the North Pole” made from PVC drainage pipe to maintain social distancing. He and Nelson thought of the idea and, after getting approval from their bosses, began working on the outfits. Kubosh’s wife even made him a matching face mask made out of Christmas stockings for the occasion.

Derrick Kubosh, who works in IT for the Anchorage School District, passes candy canes through a chute to children and parents as they sit in their cars outside Lake Otis Elementary School. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Brielle Ningeulook holds her hand out as a candy cane slides down a chute which was used to maintain social distancing. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Misty Nelson, a librarian at Lake Otis Elementary School, waves goodbye to a student after they picked up school supplies and holiday treats from staff members. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Inside the school, rows of backpacks -- gifted to a selection of students through the Anchorage Home Builders Association Shoebox Program -- and holiday gift bags made by teachers lined the gym floor.

Teachers and staff members took turns greeting cars and eager students, briefly catching up and delivering the goodies to each car.

“I see more of you than I see in Zoom!” Latico said to a student.

Deepa Senevirathne, whose three children -- now adults -- attended school at Lake Otis, carried on her tradition of delivering holiday cards to the teachers. They chatted outside her car, standing apart and motioned excitedly at one another.

Wednesday night, staff invited families to take photographs at the school playground, which had been decorated with lights for the staff holiday card.

Waves and elbow bumps replaced high fives and hugs, but still, children left smiling.

“The kids, they’re resilient,” said Indian Education Youth Development Tutor Debra Wright.

“Even though schooling has been very different this year and it’s had its challenges, we do it as a community,” Nelson said. “A community as a staff and a community as a school family.”

Brielle Ningeulook talks with Indian Education Youth Development Tutor Debra Wright. ’I like reading, ’ she told Wright. ’I miss working with all of my kids, ’ Wright said. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Derrick Kubosh passes candy canes through a chute to children and parents as they sit in their cars Wednesday. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
Jackson Rhinehart, 5, and his grandmother, Jean Stanley, watch as a candy cane slides out of a chute and into his lap. (Emily Mesner / ADN)