Commuters driving on West Rollins Road on Friday morning may have noticed more cars than usual in front of Russell Boulevard Elementary School. Cars spilled from Russell’s parking lots and lined the streets in both directions.
Inside the school, about 200 visitors, armed with cameras and camcorders, swarmed in and out of the classrooms talking with teachers and acquainting themselves with their surroundings. Some of these visitors hadn’t been inside an elementary school for several decades. On Friday they were back, not as students, but as grandparents visiting their grandchildren at Russell’s “Good Morning Grandparents” open house.
Russell has celebrated grandparents for more than 20 years, said Mary Lamberson, the principal’s secretary. Russell is proud of its school, she said, and wants to share it with the community.
As in past years, grandparents met their grandchildren before school to visit classrooms and meet teachers. Ed Hanson’s music classroom was a popular destination.
“I’ve got drums set up for easy access,” Hanson said.
Students took advantage of those drums, eagerly showing off for their grandparents, who stood smiling while their grandchildren beat a tune on the drums or the xylophones and chimes set up around the room.
Down the hall in the art room, Bette Harris walked around with her grandson, fifth-grader Harry Stanton, for her fifth grandparents’ day at Russell. Harris, a retired teacher, said she liked seeing how things had changed since she was in school. “This is a wonderful school,” she said. “We’re very glad that Harry is here.”
Louis Studer and his wife, Jan, a retired teacher who taught at Russell and Mill Creek elementary schools, came with their grandsons Will and Sam Studer. Upon meeting his grandparents, Will, a first-grader, bounded outside, leaving them tagging along behind him.
“He’s going to show us the most important thing — the playground,” Jan Studer said knowingly.
Sure enough, Will ran toward the playground before his grandparents convinced him to go back inside and show them his classroom.
Once school started, the students went to their classrooms while the grandparents gathered in the gym for an awards ceremony. Before any awards were given out, Assistant Principal Ruth Gardner and Principal Edward Schumacher introduced a group of cheerleaders to the full house. Parents, grandparents and great-grandparents applauded as the cheerleaders performed a special cheer and when a group of students sang with Hanson accompanying them on piano.
Finally, the big moment arrived. Awards were given, by a show of hands from the crowd, in three categories. Several people tied for grandparent with the most grandchildren; Joanne Jones, who declared herself “85 years young,” was the oldest grandparent; and a couple who traveled nearly 2,000 miles from Seattle beat out grandparents from Pittsburgh and Louisiana to win the award for who came the farthest.