Hundreds of grandparents visited area elementary and primary schools on Friday and Monday, part of the celebration by local schools of National Grandparents Day, officially the first Sunday after Labor Day.

Grandparents took time off work or other activities to affirm the importance of their grandkids and their educations.

The visits were big fun for kids. Educators, however, had other reasons as well to open their schools to grandparents: Strengthening family connections and involving them in education.

“It's important to extend school events to families,” said Rosa Perez, principal of Westwood Primary School. “It's a great opportunity to see what [the kids] are doing on campus.”

Overall, the role of grandparents in bringing up their grandchildren has grown in recent decades, with the rise of single-parent and no-parent families.

A U.S. Census Bureau study in 2017 ranked Texas in the top 11 states with the highest percentage (1.76% or more) of persons 30 and older caring for their grandchildren. Other studies also show grandparents are raising more children.

President Jimmy Carter signed National Grandparents Day into law in 1978.

First-grader Jaylen Anderson, 6, ate lunch with his grandmother, Rose Fortson, who works at Westwood High School. Besides caring for her grandson, Fortson takes him to play at the park, where he enjoys walking, riding his bike, and playing in the water.

At Elkhart Elementary School, students made projects for grandparents and invited them to breakfast and their weekly assembly.

Carson Camp, 6, wore a big smile while eating with two sets of grandparents, Steve and Jill Camp, and Mike and Bonnie Kelly. Bonnie said Carson's favorite activities are fishing, swimming, wrestling, and playing with blocks. Grandmother Jill Camp said they attend all family events at the school, such as award ceremonies and Christmas programs.

Carson Camp's teacher, Leslie Gail, is starting her third year at Westwood Primary. She said the Grandparents' Day luncheon is a good outreach. “Bringing the family into the school strengthens the connection between school and family,” she said.

Though hundreds of visitors flowed through the school's front doors over the two-hour lunch rotation, Perez and other office personnel safeguarded the campus with check-in tables, where family members signed in after showing an official ID and identifying the students they would join for lunch.

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