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Watch now: Why a T. rex, unicorn were at Argenta-Oreana today


Argenta-Oreana Elementary School staff member Crystal Sunderland talks about the last day of school on Tuesday. Staff dressed in costumes to welcome kids. 

OREANA – Students arriving at Argenta-Oreana Elementary School on Friday were greeted by a dancing crew consisting of a unicorn, a T-Rex, several bananas, a bunny and more.

The costumes were the brainchild of administrative assistant Crystal Sunderland, who started appearing in costume during morning drop-off after spring break.

“The first day was right before spring break,” Sunderland said. “I was a banana. I was having some winter blues and I thought I'd wear a banana one day just for the heck of it, and all the parents and the kids and the staff, the reception was pretty good.”

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Costumed staffers wait for students at Argenta-Oreana Elementary School on Tuesday. It was the last day of the academic year. 

While she was on spring break in Florida, she decided to dress up every Friday. She asked her sister to help her locate some costumes and the first one was an inflatable unicorn, which she wore again on Tuesday to celebrate the last day of the school year.

“My sister helped me secure a few more costumes and then the community started reaching out and saying 'Hey, I've got this costume if you want to use it,' and it just kind of snowballed from there,” Sunderland said.

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Argenta-Oreana first-grader Emma Six is welcomed on the last day of school by Michelle Lacox, left, and Crystal Sunderland.

For the last day of the school year, Sunderland's co-workers joined in and she brought all her costumes so everyone would have one, and brought a speaker outside to blast dance music. Parents took photos with cell phones, though several kids scurried inside as if they didn't want to admit they knew the adults in costume.

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“The kids are saying 'Just get me out of here,' ” joked Superintendent Damian Jones, who dropped by to watch, but when the staff members urged him to join them, he shook his head. “I don't dance,” he said, laughing.

One student did join in the dance to the Village People's “YMCA” and stayed as long as she could before it was time to get to her class.

“I think it's crazy and fun in a good way,” said Ruby Keathley, a fourth-grader.

“This is just what this year needed,” said Misty Salmons, who works at the school as a cook. The staff is one big family, she said, and during a tough school year in a pandemic, they all pulled together to make it as good as possible.

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Argenta-Oreana Elementary School faculty and staff including Principal Amanda Ryder, far right, welcome students on the last day of school on Tuesday. See a video with this story at

Preschool teaching assistant Jessica Siroky accompanied some of her students outside to pose for photos with the costumed characters.

“I love what they're doing,” Siroky said. “Miss Crystal's been dressing up as different characters and today's the last day of school so everybody dressed up as characters, and you can't beat it when you're coming to school and you feel happy and the kids are super excited to see them and it just makes their day.”

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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