BONITA SPRINGS — Most days at Bonita Elementary School, a strict dress code is in place: navy or khaki pants and shorts and a polo shirt.
On Wednesday, that was cast aside in favor of another dress code: that of ghouls, goblins, princesses, fairies and super heroes.
It was a literal parade of costumed tots first thing in the morning Wednesday, the last day of school in Lee County before a four-day weekend.
“This is so fun,” said teacher Becky Bartos, watching the parade. “The kids work so hard to hit their (Accelerated Reader) goal, and it’s so great for them.”
Accelerated Reader is a program that tests kids on the books they read, and checks for retention of facts and grasp of the plot. Children in first and second grades who meet 100 percent of the goals with at least 85 percent accuracy are invited to parade through the school, stopping for candy at each classroom on their route. All kindergartners get to participate.
For those children who have not met goals, they still get to wear costumes, but are observers of the parade.
“Hopefully it will be an incentive for them for the next time,” said Bartos.
At Bonita Elementary, the costumes ranged from a werewolf to the Incredible Hulk to Power Rangers. There were Supermen, Spidermen and Disney princesses as far as the eye could see.
Parker Liles, 7, opted to go spooky rather than sweet.
A purple and black hood framed her face, which was painted white, with black lips and black makeup ringing her eyes. With a wide grin, she seems to be just about the happiest vampire in the world.
“My grandma did the lips and my mommy did the face,” Parker says, lining up with her class to kick off the parade.
Parker’s teacher, Bev Laney, waves a tiny black broom to command her students’ attention: “Alright children, what do we say when we get to the classroom?”
“Trick or treat!” they practice.
“And what do we say when we leave?” she prompts.
“Thank you!” they shout back.
They begin their march, waving at last year’s teachers and giggling at each other’s costumes. Blake Childers, 8, who dons a very convincing werewolf costume, goes for dramatic effect by howling all of the way through the outdoor walkway of the school. His grandmother made the costume for him, he says. And as he walks outside on a day with temperatures approaching 90 degrees, how does it make him feel?
The children wind through those outdoor walkways, into modular classrooms and past doors where the older kids hand out candy.
“This is bigger than the Edison Pageant of Light,” Principal David Short says as the grinning, howling, snarling children file past him. “And more fun.”
The parade, while it serves the higher purposes of being exceedingly cute and rewarding kids for meeting reading goals, also helps parents and kids get their money’s worth from the Halloween costumes. The privilege of wearing that costume to school makes kids giddy, Bartos says.
“It’s one thing for your neighbors to see it,” Bartos said. “But for your classmates too — that’s really special.”
Connect with education reporter Leslie Williams at naplesnews.com/staff/leslie_williams