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Clifton Honors its Students' Grandparents

Bill Dunnill of Hamilton, Va., relished every moment of Grandparents Day at Clifton Elementary School while visiting granddaughter Kailey Lawter's first-grade class on Sept. 9.

"I met some of her friends and looked at the things they'd done in class," said Dunnill. "They were just starting artwork. I also walked by the music room and saw posters asking kids to sign up for strings and violin. Kids need music, and I was impressed that they play at this age."

The purpose of Clifton's fifth annual Grandparents Day was to honor the students' families. Said school Principal Dorothy Hughes: "Grandparents can be such a positive, contributing force to the life of students, and this is just one way we can say thank you to them."

Nearly 75 grandparents participated and, in a school of just 382 children, she said, "That's a very nice showing. We've grown in attendance every year, and we even had a greatgrandparent [this time]."

Hughes said grandparents are a "golden resource" for students. "We want to make it clear that they're an important part of the children's lives — not just at home, but in school, too," she said. "And the children are proud to introduce them to their principal and teachers."

Dunnill called Grandparents Day a great idea. "It shows the kids support from their grandparents," he said. "It's a beautiful school. It's the first time I've been here, and all the teachers I've met have been very nice."

Carolyn and Bob Foster of Mount Dora, Fla., were en route to granddaughter Bailey Foster's fifth-grade class, after visiting grandson Nicholas' first-grade class. "They were working on reading exercises," said Bob. "We listened to the [in-house] TV broadcast, and I thought it was good for the kids."

As a grandmother, Carolyn was pleased to see what the children are doing. Added Bob: "It encourages the grandchildren, too. They appreciate having us come here." Carolyn called the school "excellent — a well-organized and positive experience."

Vera and Wayne Thomson of Annandale visited grandchildren Natasha, a fifth-grader, and Scarlett, second grade. They said the Pledge of Allegiance, observed the moment of silence and met the school librarian.

"This is terrific," said Vera. "We enjoyed the library, and we were impressed that Natasha had started using the computer in fourth grade and is already quite familiar with it."

Calling Grandparents Day a neat idea, Wayne said, "It takes me back many years. The schools are more modern now, with computers and closed-circuit TV." Added Vera: "I grew up in post-war Germany and, when I see what's being offered to students today, there's no comparison. It's marvelous."

She called Clifton wonderful. "You have a sense that the principal holds it all together," she said. "And everyone is courteous and wants to help."

Also visiting was John Martin — Clifton's PTA president, 30 years ago. "Three of our four children went to school here, and now their children are here," he said. Three decades ago, said Martin, the building, itself, was smaller, and the school only had 25 percent of the students it has now.

"The big social event in the town was the PTA Harvest Ball," he recalled. "There were no activities for children because we were such a long driving distance [from other towns], so we showed movies to the children at school, every Saturday morning. Several families made popcorn, and it cost 10 cents to go to the movie — it was a PTA fund-raiser."

Doris Martin liked getting to see the inside of the school. "Grandparents are pretty far-removed from where the children are, so it's good to see how children operate in school now," she said. "It's quite a difference."

And after seeing students in granddaughter Emily's fourth-grade class make presentations about the mobiles they'd made, she and John were surprised how mature children seem today at an earlier age. They also enjoyed dropping in on granddaughter Kelsey's third-grade class. Overall, said Doris, "Clifton's a gorgeous school, and I'm impressed with how it's run."