For the first time since Covid-19, Grandparents Day is back

Brooke Ebner

Like every other school day during lunch, sophomore Katelyn Hurt walks into the survey, grabs a plate and goes through the hot lunch line. She gets her food, grabs a glass of water and heads to find a table. She sits down and starts to talk to people sitting next to her. Today is different though— she starts to talk to her grandparents.

 For the first time since 2019, Grandparents Day for the middle and upper schools was back and took place on Nov. 17. Kam Bakewell, director of the ESD fund and special projects proposed changes to this traditional event to make it more meaningful for students and grandparents, and also to try to increase participation.

“Our numbers in attendance for upper school [for Grandparents Day] have kind of gone up and down and most recently before Covid-19, we’re back going down,” Bakewell said. “And so we wanted to kind of rethink ‘okay, how do we do this?’”

Bakewell proposed that only grandparents who have students in the ninth grade and 12th grades be invited. And, different to previous years, grandparents were invited to only attend chapel, lunch and one class after lunch.

“They get to go to chapel still which is an important part of our grandparents tradition [and] they can visit a class if they want to, [but] they don’t have to,” Bakewell said. “We still have [the] photography man, so they can still get their picture.”

According to Bakewell, lunch is an important part of the day.

“[It] allows us to have them go through the servery and have lunch with their grandchild,” Bakewell said. “Thinking about my own parents, they love to just sit down and hear what’s going on with them.”

Although attendance was one reason for the changes other factors were considered as well

“[Grandparents Day] is something that grandparents really like, but it also disrupts the school day quite a bit,” Assistant Head of Upper School Jeffery Laba said. “And so we’re trying to balance those two.”

The lower school did have a Grandparents Day last year. Senior Edie Dahlander made two videos for the event: one for lower school and one for middle and upper school to show all grandparents what happens on campus on a regular school day

“[They consisted of] videos of like classes, sports, lunch, just everything that kind of goes around here in the daily life,” Dahlander said. “Grandparents love their grandkids and being involved in what they are doing in their daily life [and] so I think this way they could see kind of like a lot of different aspects of student life.”

While the administration hopes these changes made the day more meaningful and increased attendance, it also meant that sophomores and juniors were excluded from the day.

Sophomore Daniella Woodhouse was disappointed that she couldn’t spend this day with her grandparents. Being new to ESD last year, her grandparents have never been on campus.

“For the sophomores and juniors it was really upsetting because when sophomores were freshmen we unfortunately did not experience Grandparents Day on campus due to Covid-19,” Woodhouse said. “So we will only then have one year of experiencing Grandparents Day on campus and I really wish I could show them the ESD school campus before leaving my senior year.”

By the time sophomores and juniors are seniors, some grandparents may not be able to attend the event.

“If your kids are in sophomore or junior year, you’re going to have to wait until they’re in [senior] year,” Dahlander said. “And then it’s not insured that [your grandparents] [are] gonna stay or that the grandparents are gonna be able to [go].”

In a Dec. 5 poll of 120 upper school students, 87 percent responded that their grandparents didn’t come to Grandparents Day, and in a different poll of 104 upper school students, 72 percent responded that they didn’t like the changes to the event day this year.

Sophomores and juniors had a regular school day on Nov. 17, but they got a special pizza lunch as the servery was being used for Grandparents Day.

Although these changes are upsetting some, the administration thought it would also  be a good idea for grandparents to come at the start and end of their grandchild’s time in upper school.        

 “They thought it would be nice to sort of have a ‘book-end’ like [effect when] you come freshman year and then you come senior year,” Laba said.

But sophomores and juniors with a freshman or senior sibling did get to bring their grandparents to their classrooms that day. Also, some grandparents of sophomores and juniors had already made travel arrangements before these changes were announced, so they and their grandkids also attended the day’s events.

“I’ve had a couple of grandparents who already made their airline tickets and their grandchild falls in 10th or 11th grade,” Bakewell said. “I’m not going to turn them away, so they’re going to join us on that day.”

Sophomore Katelyn Hurt was one of those students who was able to attend Grandparents Day with her brother Hunter Hurt who is a senior. Their grandparents, Patricia and Jeff Hurt, have attended Grandparents Day in the past and noticed a big difference: there were less grandparents on campus.

“It does feel less crowded, so that’s nice,” Patricia Hurt said. “[Lunch] is a nice part of the day to share and also see what the cafeteria is like.”

The Hurts also enjoyed other activities besides lunch that took place during the day.

“I think that it’s great that you do the photos cause it’s a nice memory,” Patricia Hurt said.

Jeff said that he enjoyed being able to walk around the school and see the new changes on campus.

Katelyn was able to be one of the few sophomores who got to partake in the day’s activities. She, however, felt that their time with her grandparents on campus was not enough.

“It felt kinda short because I only had from 12:50 p.m. to like 1:30 p.m.,” Katelyn said. “I wish I had more time.”

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