The coronavirus has kept many people from their daily routines, and now the area is under a shelter-at-home order, so many people will have those routines disrupted even more.

In answer to the virus’ closing the schools until at least April 3, one area elementary school principal has decided to hold nightly bedtime storytimes for her students via video.

Eli Lopez, the principal at Saegert Elementary School in Killeen, said she began holding storytimes every other Sunday night about two years ago, but while schools are closed, she has extended this tradition to every night, Sundays through Fridays.

Lopez said, “Last year I saw a story about a school principal had gotten on (the internet) to help (children) keep calm and I thought it was a great idea. I love the idea of the principal helping out.” Bedtime storytimes began and have continued into this year.

However, when the schools were are closed right after spring break, Lopez made the decision to take the storytimes and hold them every night instead of the usual twice-monthly storytimes.

“With everything going on, I thought this was a good way to keep that calm and a little consistency … (and let the children know that) someone from the school is still thinking about them and cares about them.”

Lopez shoots the videos from her home office using a web camera and Facebook Live; the video is then run live and posted on the school PTA’s website. “We partner with … the PTA. We try to post a lot on that page to keep families in the loop,” she said.

Lopez also works closely with the school’s librarian, Lara Sursa, in choosing the books she reads. Sursa helps Lopez determine which books they have permission from the authors and publishers to use.

Each video takes “anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes,” according to Lopez. In addition to the story, she gives reminders about school business.

Lopez has also extended the storytimes to include older students; she will be reading chapter books to them via video, as well. She said in an email that until the schools reopen, “The children’s picture books will continue Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. Then shortly after at 7:30 p.m, I will read “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. The plan for this book is a chapter a night.” She said she will still be reading the stories on Sundays, as well; once school resumes, storytimes will be held on the usual twice-monthly Sunday nights.

Lopez misses being in the classroom, and she has found in the nightly videos a way to connect with her students even more. Her dedication is evident in her giving of her own time to read and make the videos; evident as well is the care she feels for her students.

“There’s a lot going on out there,” Lopez said. “Hope and love, be nice to others — that’s my underlying message.”

Lopez welcomes everyone in the community to watch and enjoy the storytime, and now chapter book, videos. To access them, go to the school’s Facebook PTA page at https://www.facebook.com/SaegertPTA and either scroll down to the current video or click on the “videos” link on the left — that will take you to all the videos she has posted.

If you or anyone you know is doing something special for the people in the community while the shelter-at-home directive is in effect, please contact the Harker Heights Herald at 254-634-2125.

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