WARRENSBURG – Warrensburg-Latham Elementary School doesn't hold many events during the school day.
“We guard our instruction time,” said Principal Laura Anderson.
But last year, the Parent-Teacher Association wanted to have a Grandparents Day and it was such a popular idea that they repeated it this year. Anderson said it will be an annual event.
In a school with 400 students in preschool through fifth grade, 550 grandparents visited over the two days of the event, 250 for preschool through second grade and 300 more on Friday for the third through fifth grades.
“I give all the credit to PTA,” Anderson said. “They do a great job of making the grandparents feel welcome, sending out all of the fliers and everything. They run this. We talk to (the grandparents) about how they're a big part of their kids' story and what a big role they play. I told the grandparents we'll have this every year because their investment in their kids' educational life is worth it.”
Kids whose grandparents live too far away to attend, Anderson said, could bring a special friend instead, or grandparents who were there “adopted” them. Events included organized games and activities, as well as visits to the children's classrooms, a photo booth and a time for kids to interview their grandparents about their lives.
“We never had (this event) until last year,” said Rhonda Bray, program chair for the school's PTA. “It was important to us to have our kids' grandparents come to this and have that moment with them. Our parents are older than some and we want them to have that moment. All we've done is just send out a letter telling them what we were going to do and an RSVP slip for grandparents or any special older friend, and they came.”
Debbie Reynolds spent the morning with her third-grade grandson, Micah Reynolds.
“It's a privilege to be a grandparent,” she said. “We do have an important role in our grandchildren's lives, to encourage them, to build them up, to help them navigate their life, in an assistant sort of way, not Mom or Dad. That was easier,” she added with a laugh. “Grandparents have to back off a little bit. But just to be there for them and let them know how important they are to us.”
Reynolds also attended last year, and this year's event, she said, was a little more efficiently organized. Last year, everyone moved from point to point as a group and the group was too large for that. This year, they were divided up and it worked much better.
“You've got a lot of support here,” she said. “They've done a good job, I think.”
One reason the school has such good family support, said Judy Inman, grandparent to fourth-grader Olivia Helm, is how welcoming the school staff is.
“They welcome parents, they welcome grandparents, they make us feel like they want us here and we have a piece of the puzzle, a reason to be here,” Inman said.
Seeing your grandchildren in their everyday setting creates a bond, Inman said. She makes it a point to attend school concerts and functions for that reason.
One thing she especially appreciated about Friday's event was the shuttle service to get grandparents to the door. So many people attended that some had to park quite a distance from the door and for Inman, who has a bad knee, that walk would have been daunting.
“I think small town schools tend to be like that,” Reynolds said. “We're family-oriented.”