Santa #039;drops in#039; on Burlington students

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 19, 2002

Rudolph's nose still works and Dasher, Dancer and all the rest of the reindeer are ready to go, but Santa Claus came parachuting from the skies Wednesday at Burlington Elementary School.

As the children from grades kindergarten through fifth screamed and pointed skyward, Santa jumped from 3,500 feet as the plane traveled more than 80 miles per hour. Old Saint Nick made a spiraling descent into the field behind the playground to the excitement and joy of the onlooking children.

"I think it was cool because I never saw anyone jump out of an airplane in a Santa suit," 4th-grader Courtney Schwab said. "I was afraid he was going to land on us because he was right over our heads."

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Victoria Gardner, 4th grade, said she thinks Santa made the special trip to the school because he wanted to surprise the younger kids and that she understood why he was by himself.

"I guess the reindeer are exercising and the elves are making toys," she said.

Many of the students said they hope to jump themselves one day and have been interested in parachuting since a skydiver landed at the school during this year's Sept. 11 memorial service.

Principal Mark Christian said that the children got such a kick out of the first event that they decided to work with the Tri-State Skydivers Association again to schedule this jump.

"It is something they do not normally see," he said. "Anything to get them excited about school and education is good."

Afterwards, a Santa visited the kindergarten classes with a few treats to get them ready for the holidays.

"We have never had a Santa Claus do this before," Christian said. "We thought it would be nice to do and fun for them."