On Sunday morning, 8-year-old Tommy Cooper and his family were surprised to find a sign planted in his front yard.

The Locust Grove third-grader had been home from school for a week, with districts across the state shutting their doors at the decree of Gov. Ralph Northam, to slow the spread of COVID-19, the sometimes deadly disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The homemade sign read, “Tommy, I hope you are making the best of your time off. I just wanted to let you know I MISS YOU! I really hope we all get to see each other again soon! Until then, work hard, play hard, and wash your hands!”

It was signed by his teacher at Locust Grove Elementary School, Mrs. Emily Indelicato.

“I made 22 signs last Saturday—it took me most of the day,” said Indelicato in an interview with the Star-Exponent. “At first I was planning to write messages with sidewalk chalk—but it was raining. So I made signs instead. My husband thought I was crazy.”

Even so, Indelicato said her husband and 1-year-old son drove with her early Sunday morning to post the signs in front of the homes of each of her students.

“It took nearly three hours to do them all,” she said. “It kind of felt like Christmas, running up to each house, trying not to get caught.”

Tommy’s mom, Katie Cooper, said he was thrilled with the surprise.

“Tommy woke up this morning to a little sign in the yard that had a big impact on his heart!” she said in an email message to the Star-Exponent this week.

“I just think it’s wonderful that his teacher would take the time to visit each of her students in the very early morning to leave them a note to say she misses them and is thinking of them,” she said.

Cooper is a stay-at-home mom who is vice president of the Parent Teacher Association of the Locust Grove school where Tommy and daughter Dixie Rose, a second-grader, attend. Cooper's husband is an employee of the U.S. Department of Defense and is currently working from home due to the coronavirus.

“It’s been hard to keep the students connected,” Indelicato said. “They miss each other. We try to do video chats on Flipgrid so they can see each other. But it’s hard for them, not getting that in-person contact.”

Katie Cooper appreciates Indelicato’s efforts.

“I just thought this kind of story, a teacher going the extra mile, would be a welcome break from all the scary news,” Cooper said. “It truly is a good thing to hear about.”

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