When Courtney Waddlesworth took one of her regular flights from Arcola Elementary School's courtyard Tuesday morning, Teresa Kage was concerned the mother of 13 ducklings wouldn't return in time for the brood's annual parade.
The custodian needn't have worried.
Courtney, who has nested at the Northwest Allen County Schools building three years, made it back in time for the midmorning, school-wide event held to usher the ducklings to the wild.
Students lined the hallways, watching in hushed tones as Kage, fellow custodian Scott Reynolds and Principal Kathleen Perfect guided the brood through the school and across a grassy area away from the building.
By now, Courtney is a pro with the routine.
“She knows what to do,” Kage said.
Kage has spent weeks caring for Courtney, who usually arrives in the courtyard – a place protected from such predators as coyotes – in late March.
“I'm very grateful that I get to do this,” an emotional Kage said after the parade.
The number of ducklings has grown each year, from six to 13, Kage said, adding this was the first year every egg hatched. Kage correctly predicted the day it would happen – May 8.
Students – especially the younger children – look forward to the ducklings, fifth graders Carly Linnemeier and Samuel Lovell said. Both enjoyed watching the ducklings splash and play in the courtyard's makeshift pools – two round sleds filled with water.
“It's really fun to experience and see real ducklings,” Carly said.
School personnel have honed the annual parade. They use a trifold poster board to help guide the ducks and now know to place carpeted mats over tiled flooring.
Becoming responsible for Courtney “just kind of happened” for Kage, she said, noting she grew up on a farm.
That's not to say she would care for every animal like she does for Courtney.
“If it was geese,” Kage said, “I wouldn't be doing this.”