'Grandfriends' welcome at Village School


NORTH BENNINGTON — Whether grandparent or "grandfriend," all were welcome at the Village School of North Bennington Friday.

It was the first Grandfriends Day at the school, for grandparents and older family friends and relatives to see their grandchildren's school experience firsthand.

"We wanted to call it `grandfriends,' because a lot of kids might not have grandparents close by," said Judie Brower, a member of the school's board of trustees. "The more family is involved the more support the kids get. The whole, `it takes a village.'"

The grandfriends — around 80 in total — arrived at about 12:30, and by 1 p.m., they were observing classroom lessons, presentations and activities.

"We have [had] kids here for 45, 50 years," said Melanie McKenna on her way to her granddaughter Nieve's gym class with Kathleen Backus — who is her daughter-in-law.

"Just another generation," said her husband, Don McKenna. The couple have four granddaughters in the Village School.

"We moved to this school specifically," Melanie McKenna said. "It's still the best one. Everybody knows everybody."

In Backus' third-grade class, some grandfriends got in on the fun, playing games like bean-bag toss.

Mary Woodward mostly succeeded in catching the green bean-bags her granddaughter, Madison Kolakowski, threw her way.

"I'm raising her," Woodward said of Madison. "I'm here every day. Wouldn't miss it."

Down the hall in the fifth-grade classroom, grandfriends helped with research for students' projects about subjects they have a passion for — everything from writing to baseball to making clothes.

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"I'm happy papa came," said Alannah McNamara of her grandfather, Jay Pleasant.

It was easy to make the trip, Pleasant said — he lives right across the street. Pleasant helped with research for Alannah's particular interest, writing.

"I want to learn how to write a book," she said. She'd found a website with some tips.

"I'm still taking notes," she said. "There's 20 tips. I'm working on my second one."

In the fourth grade room, students interviewed grandfriends about their lives, writing down their answers.

One asked a grandfriend about her first job — it was in a flower shop, she recalled.

"This is amazing," said Amy Bishop, who teaches pre-kindergarten. "I think pretty much every child in here has a grandfriend. It's better than I thought."

Bishop decided her class would share ice cream sundaes with the visitors. Four-year-old Ellie Coyne enjoyed her sundae on her mother's lap, next to her grandmother, Barb Coyne.

Coyne also attended the Village School; Ellie represents the fourth generation in the family to attend.

If the school holds Grandfriends Day again, Coyne said she'll definitely come back.

"I try to get involved as much as I can," she said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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