Chris Corrie remembers the first athletic booster club night that Van Horn High School had when it joined the Independence School District.

The staff outnumbered the parents at the sparse, first meet-the-coaches outing.

“Hardly any of the parents showed up, but one of our parents – who did so much early on for Van Horn – Darrell Driskell, brought some hats and shirts and sweatshirts with our school logo on them,” Corrie recalled. “I don’t know how excited the parents were, but we were sure excited. Before that, you couldn’t find anything with our school logo. That was the start – and look how far we’ve come. It’s pretty amazing.”

That was 2008 and Corrie was a pioneer of sorts.

Just ask Van Horn High School Principal Justin Woods.

“Chris is absolutely a pioneer,” said Woods, “because he is one of the few remaining members of the staff who were here at Van Horn when it became a part of the Independence School District.

“Honestly, I don’t know what we’d do without Chris. Whenever anyone has a question about the school, they ask Chris, and he has the answer.”

Corrie was a soccer coach at Van Horn when it was taken over by the Independence School District. There was no student council, no music or theater department – none of the activities that are such an important part of the Falcons’ curriculum now.

Corrie laughs when he thinks back to the days when his team practiced on a “40-by-40 piece of dirt.”

“So, Dr. Woods calls me a pioneer,” the activities director said, chuckling. “I guess I am, at least here at Van Horn. Looking back at the past 12 years there have been so many changes – and all for the good.”

Van Horn is the home to an 1,800-square-foot culinary school that is part of the district’s ISD Academies programs.

The Falcons have a new fieldhouse that ranks with any in the state, a turf field and their success on the playing field and in the classroom has been well documented, including a state final four appearance by Jesus Rodriguez’s boys soccer team.

And now Corrie and the staff at Van Horn are doing all they can to help students – especially seniors – navigate the choppy waters of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

“It’s been different, it’s been difficult, especially not seeing the students every day,” Corrie said. “We now have to communicate with social media. That is becoming the new norm.

“Emails, phone calls, Zoom – we’re doing it all for our kiddos and we want them to know that we are always here for them. We might not be here face to face, but we are here and we are always thinking about them.”

While he longs to get back to school with all his students, he especially wants some more face time with the seniors.

“The seniors have lost so much, and we are going to do everything we can to honor them,” Corrie said. “The Missouri State High School Activities Association recently relaxed its restrictions during the summer, but I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations of spring sports being played in the summer.”

The MSHSAA Board of Directors voted to make its summer dead period and summer limits on contact optional for 2020, though any activities would first need to be approved by local, state and national health officials.

The decision removes the restriction of teams being allowed only 20 days of contact during the summer months.

The chance of possibly getting to play or get together with the teams this summer thrills Corrie.

“We’d love to see it happen, but a lot of things would have to fall into place, but there is always hope,” he said.

When he’s not contacting students, doing social media chats with coaches, teachers and administrators, Corrie and his wife Jana, ISD’s director of public relations, are home working with their kindergartner Roen and second grader Jonathan on their school work.

“I love it,” Corrie said. “If there is one silver lining in all of this, it is that so many families – including ours – get to spend more time at home with each other.

“Jana and I really enjoy working with our boys. I think they really like it when I’m their playground supervisor, because that means it’s time for their favorite class – PE.”