Teachers and staff work to return thousands of items left at schools

(WTHR photo: Rich VanWyk)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - As if schools and teachers don’t have enough to worry about, they are busy packing up and giving back all the stuff students left behind when they suddenly left schools and didn’t come back.

Cars lined up outside Valley Mills elementary to retrieve items left behind. A teacher wearing a mask walked up carrying a big bag of “stuff."

“Here’s some books for summer reading and all the stuff from your desk,“ she said to a waiting student.

Stuff belongs to 600 students. Teachers emptied it from desks, bagged it up, sorted it out and handed over everything kids normally take home on the last day of school. But this wasn’t a normal school year.

Students left school in March, thinking they would be back in a couple of weeks. No one expected they would be gone the rest of the school year.

Workers at Decatur Central High School are emptying 1800 student lockers. Heide Miller is finding lots of clothes, designer footwear, books and sporting equipment.

“Things that cost a lot of money,” Miller said, "valuable things.”

They are personal things parents must make appointments to pick-up in the front office.

"It’s a challenge,” said Principal Scott DeFreese. “We are just trying to follow the guidelines, maintaining social distancing, trying to have as little traffic in the building as possible," DeFreese added.

Behind her face mask Elementary School Principal Rebecca Johnson was smiling as students and teachers were able to say goodbye.

“We miss them, we check in on them,” Johnson said. "It’s a way we connect with people and let them know their stuff is important, but they are more important.”

“There you go, have a good summer,” Johnson said as she handed a large bag of personal items and books to 5th Grader Ariannah Farnsworth.

Ariannah's mom praised teachers and enjoyed the moment.

“Kind of a way to make an end. They can say goodbye, get the belongings and end it the best way we can.” she said.

Teachers shared some big hopes with students.

“There you go buddy," one said as she handed a bag of belongings to a student. “Have a great summer, see you next year!”