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Mariners Christian School bids farewell to departing students with socially distanced ‘Drive-Bye’

Abigail and Elia Choi, 5, hold signs and wave to staff members at Mariners Christian School during "The Great MCS Drive-Bye," a socially distanced celebration on the last day of school on Friday.
Abigail and Elia Choi, 5, hold signs and wave to staff members at Mariners Christian School during “The Great MCS Drive-Bye,” a socially distanced celebration on the last day of school on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The carpool lane at Costa Mesa’s Mariners Christian School recently became a makeshift party venue as families and teachers convened for a “Great MCS Drive-Bye” on Friday to celebrate the end of a school year marked by distance and coronavirus cautions.

Hundreds of parents lined up their vehicles and waited for a chance to drive their children through a corridor of teachers and staff, some of whom dressed in costumes specially for the occasion. Music blared from cars as students stood and waved through sunroofs.

Among them was eighth-grader Clay Riener, who festooned the family SUV with individualized poster-board greetings made out to his favorite teachers. Mom Valerie Riener said it was the perfect end to a year marked by a lot of new norms.

Clay Riener, an eighth-grader at Costa Mesa's Mariners Christian School, greets teachers at a May 22 "Drive-Bye" on the last day of the school year.
Clay Riener, an eighth-grader at Costa Mesa’s Mariners Christian School, greets teachers at a May 22 “Drive-Bye” on the last day of the school year.
(Courtesy of Valerie Riener)

“We were excited to participate and say good-bye and thank you to the school. They’ve done such a great job to keep that community feeling going,” she said. “Just to go through that and get a glimpse of people and wave through the car — he craved that.”

Mariners Christian Middle School Dean Katie Niles said the end-of-school event was as much a celebration for faculty and staff as it was for students and families.

“Not being able to see our students and end the year with them was really difficult. It really was, for lack of a better word, a bummer,” Niles said. “This was the best way we could have ended the year together. It was incredibly special.”

Kindergarten teachers at Mariners Christian School wave and hold signs for families during "The Great MCS Drive-Bye."
Kindergarten teachers at Mariners Christian School wave and hold signs for families during “The Great MCS Drive-Bye.”
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The school also invited families to take and personally sign bricks which will be installed in an atrium floor being built as part of a campus modernization, scheduled to be completed this fall.

School Head Heather Harrison said in a release issued by Mariners Christian the event was intended as an end-of-the-year tribute to the 735-member student body, including eighth-graders like Clay, who will be moving on to other schools next academic year.

“We couldn’t be prouder of our students and hope they feel celebrated for all they have accomplished this year,” Harrison said. “It’s the best way to conclude a year that brought such unexpected challenge.”

Jennifer Crowell, the outdoor director at Mariners Christian School, waves to passing cars during "The Great MCS Drive-Bye."
Jennifer Crowell, the outdoor director at Mariners Christian School, waves to passing cars during “The Great MCS Drive-Bye.”
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

For Valerie Riener, having the opportunity to bid farewell to a school that has been like a second home to her son for the past six years was priceless.

“It’s bittersweet for the eighth-grade families, but we just had to celebrate what a great job the school and families have done through this pandemic,” she said. “It’s been unreal.”

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