Bryant Elementary students get a treat for collecting pennies for Humane Society

Over the past several years, children at Bryant Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School have collected a mountain of pennies to help care for animals at the Kansas Humane Society.

This school year alone, they collected 124,000 pennies – $1,240 – for the society’s annual Pennies From Heaven fundraiser. Altogether the kids at Bryant have raised more than $4,200.

So Monday afternoon, teachers took the students to the school gymnasium for a celebration and a special treat.

“There’s something right outside that door,” said Brian Pierce, co-host of the morning show on local radio station KFDI, media sponsor of the Pennies From Heaven campaign. “And it’s …”

“Ice cream!” the children shouted.

Lorelei Warner screamed.

Riley Runnion screamed.

Landon Joynt screamed.

They all screamed for ice cream.

The Humane Society partnered with Frosty Treats and KFDI to provide free ice cream treats to all the students at Bryant, one of five Wichita schools that will close for good this month.

“You guys were a big part of the campaign … to take care of the animals until they can find their forever home,” said Kellie Michaels, Pierce’s co-host on KFDI.

A Frosty Treats ice cream truck parked between the gym and the school playground played “It’s a Small World” quietly while volunteers from the Kansas Humane Society helped hand out pink cotton-candy-flavored ice cream bars.

“It tastes like candy and ice cream,” said 5-year-old Riley, smiling. “It’s good.”

Christy Fullerton’s first-grade class found spots in the shade beside the building to enjoy their treats. Many viewed the celebration as another way to mark the end of the year and the school’s final days.

Fullerton said the last few weeks at Bryant have been sad for students and teachers as the west Wichita magnet school prepares to close after 56 years. Despite months of pleas from parents, neighbors and employees earlier this year to keep the school open, district leaders voted to close it as part of a new boundary plan and cost-cutting measure.

“This isn’t a place I thought I would ever be leaving,” Fullerton said.

Most of Bryant’s students will be reassigned to three nearby schools – Black, Dodge or OK Elementary. The school will host a farewell ceremony and open house for current and former students and neighbors from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the school, 4702 W. Ninth.

“Even though it’s bittersweet, it will all be OK,” said Fullerton, the first-grade teacher. She will teach fifth grade at Peterson Elementary next school year, she said, but plans to write a letter to each of her Bryant students next fall as they start a new year in a new place.

“We’re trying to give lots of positives and tell them that … we’ll always be friends,” she said.