Local schools celebrate grandparents
by Mark Andrews
Sep 15, 2011 | 2593 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Grandmother Marion Vidoli talks with her granddaughter Giulia Vidoli, center, and classmates Kennedy Elliott, left, and Kyndel Smith during Grandparents Month(s) at Cartersville Elementary School. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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While the nation reflected this week on 9/11, schools across Bartow County also recognized Sunday as National Grandparents Day, giving grandparents opportunities to visit their grandchildren at school for lunch.

Marty Barber, counselor at Cartersville Elementary School, and Gentry Hilgers, media specialist at Taylorsville Elementary School, said they're having to expand the holiday at their respective schools.

"We've turned [Grandparent's Day] into two months," Barber said. "We're going to have Grandparent(s) Month in September and October."

According to research reported by The Associated Press, grandparents in recent decades have often filled in for absent parents who were ill or battled addiction, or were sent to prison. The latest trend of grandparent involvement, reflected in census figures recently released, is now being driven also by the economy and the graying U.S. population, including the 78 million boomers born between 1946 and 1964 who began turning 65 this year.

The newer grandparents are mainly baby boomers who still are working, with greater disposable income. Now making up one in four adults, grandparents are growing at twice the rate of the overall population and sticking close to family -- if their grandkids aren't already living with them.

There were more than 40 grandparents when The Daily Tribune News visited TES, and Hilgers said the school has to split up the days when grandparents can visit.

"Taylorsville is such a tight-knit community and sometimes grandparents have multiple grandchildren and it's hard to have lunch with each of them when their lunch times overlap," Hilgers said.

Barber said the school has seen more grandparents visiting each year and eventually turned the September holiday into a month, and then months, of visitation opportunities.

"It gives grandparents more time to visit their grandchild's school," Barber said. "Today's grandparents have very busy, hectic schedules and we just want to be sure we give them ample time to come over ... It was overwhelming, but in a good way. We're talking about feeding several hundred extra people, so it just makes sense to spread out the joy."

Like all visitors, grandparents are required to sign in at the front desk of their grandchild's school and then are directed to the lunchroom to sit down for a school lunch once again.

"Studies show that students who have parental involvement, including the involvement of their grandparents, achieve higher success at school," Barber said. "Everything we plan and do is going to go back to supporting our children and their academic success."

Both Barber and Hilgers said grandparents and grandchildren play important roles in each other's lives.

"It means a lot to the boys and girls to know how much their grandparents care and support them," Barber said. "...We have writing on display and it's very common for children to include stories about grandparents."

The Associated Press reported surveys show much of the increase in grandparent caregivers occurred later in the decade after the recession eliminated jobs for many younger people. The 8-percent share of children now living with grandparents is the largest in at least 40 years -- and it is believed to be the largest share ever, population experts say.

Nearly half the states had increases of 40 percent or more over the last decade in the number of grandchildren living with grandparents. They were led by states such as Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona and Kentucky, which had influxes of young families or suffered higher rates of poverty.

On the other end of the scale, New Jersey, New York, Michigan and Louisiana saw the smallest increases, less than 10 percent. Each of those states saw slower population growth overall since 2000, particularly among young people.

Grandparent facts:

* 5.8 million children, or nearly 8 percent of all children, are living with grandparents identified as the head of household. That's up from 4.5 million, or 6.3 percent, who lived in such households in 2000.

* There are 62.8 million grandparents in the U.S., the most ever. They are projected to make up roughly one in three adults by 2020.

* 2.7 million grandparents were responsible for most of the basic needs of their grandchildren in 2009.

* 1 million: Number of grandparents responsible for caring for their grandchildren for at least the past five years. These grandparents represented 40 percent of all grandparents whose grandchildren lived with them.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

-- The Associated Press contributed to this article.