Ticket to ride

Polar Express makes tracks across town


Hissing steam and squeaking metal, the Polar Express recently made its way through Johnston’s schools and took hundreds of children dressed in pajamas and with Golden Tickets for a ride to the North Pole that they’ll never forget.

For the nearly 200 kindergarteners of the Early Childhood Center, Wednesday was their special day to board the train. After months of planning by the faculty and staff of the ECC, the school was decked out as a winter wonderland taken from a storybook. In keeping with their yearly tradition, the school put its best foot forward that provided an experience that mirrored the classic Christmas tale.

“Anything for the kids, plus there’s very few occasions where I can rock red and green,” said Ferri Middle School Assistant Principal Fred Skipworth, who served as the conductor for the ride and punched each student’s ticket with a special snowflake stamp. “I wish them all a happy holiday, a happy New Year, and ensure that the joy they are feeling right now continues every day.”

Students patiently waited to board the train in the main hall as Christmas music played and the children sang. They then picked up their cardboard train cars, formed a train and made their way to a sit down with Santa.

“It was wonderful to see the entire faculty and staff come together to help give the children this wonderful experience. All of the children enjoyed taking part in it as well and the smiles on their faces brought joy to the teachers,” said ECC Principal Ms. Keri L. Autiello. “I wish all the children a wonderful vacation as they spend this time with their families.”

Kim Marshall, the school’s Art Teacher who worked diligently with the students to created the backdrop scenes throughout the school, explained that the students and teachers each wore pajamas for the day as the characters in The Polar Express book did.

“I wish the kids friendship. Stay friends, because we have a lot of good kids this year and they loved each other a lot,” she said.

Graniteville Station

There’s a special credo at The Graniteville School that reads “where playing is learning and learning is fun.”

That tradition that Principal Maria Petronio-McAfee and her staff reinforce each day surfaced during what many people called “a night that was magical and was sure to leave a special memory for every child that was present” last Thursday night.

Children who attend the red-brick, pre-K school that’s located at 6 Collins Avenue received a golden ticket before they boarded the Polar Express for was without question an educational and entertaining trek around the world.

Each child, who was accompanied by their smiling parents and other relatives, visited all the classrooms that were decorated with precision and depicted many holidays and traditions such as Kwanzaa, Buon Natale, Christmas in Mexico, Costa Rica and Hanukkah.

As Petronio-McAfee related during a special trip aboard the unique Graniteville Polar Express: “Our teaching teams created child centered activities for the children to explore with their parents in each and every one of the themed classrooms. It was really something to see and for our staff to be extra proud of creating.”

Even when the families passed through the corridors, they seemed in awe that the bulletin boards and walls depicted Christmas scenes such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Candy Land and Santa’s winter wonderland.

The children were also able to stop by and make “reindeer food” with oats and edible glitter as Petronio-McAfee proudly reiterated, “All the decorations that you see here tonight were made by the children and staff of Graniteville School.”

In keeping with tradition, the last stop on the Polar Express was the cafeteria where the children were able to eat cookies, enjoy hot chocolate and visit with Santa Claus.

“The children love this,” offered Graniteville School PTO officers Aracelis Sical and Karlie Sundberg. “Their smiles are priceless.”

To say that the 2018 Graniteville Polar Express was special would be an understatement.

If there wasn’t School Psychologist Lind Marandola and IECSSE/Teacher Kristen Falcone assisting the children as they made reindeer food, there were such scenes as Morgan Smithers and Madeline Frias modeling their macaroni necklaces they made in the Kwanzaa room or Leilla Lombardi and Luca Achilli enjoying collaging over the poinsettias in Room 3 there they celebrated Christmas in Mexico.

Moreover, children like Angelo DelGreco could be seen showing off his Polar Express ticket alongside of the Abominable Snowman, just one of many characters on display during an unusual holiday happening extraordinaire that was highlighted by that magical moment with Santa Claus, even though Christmas was 12 days away.

Stop at Thornton

Last Friday night, Thornton students and their guests boarded the Panda Polar Express filled with a trip of fun, games, and Christmas magic.

This year’s Panda Polar Express was scheduled to make seven stops throughout the school. Attendees first received their tickets, then gathered in the school’s cafeteria to socialize and take part in a raffle that included beautiful evergreens donated by Jacavone Garden Center. Passengers then boarded their respective cars and headed off to create Christmas ornaments in Room 20, then moved on for a reading of The Polar Express.

The students then stopped in the school’s cafeteria, where they had treats and got the chance to put frosting on their own cookies. The journey continued to a reindeer food creation station before heading to a letter writing room, where the kids had the chance to come up with a personalized list for Santa. There was a chance to win prizes at the Bingo room before the student’s big moment, a chance to see Santa Claus himself.

Before leaving town, the Polar Express sputtered some steam and sounded its whistle, leaving behind a lifetime of memories for those young children who still believe.


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