At Point O' View Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, what began as a segue from a traditional school calendar to a year-round schedule has become a signature event of the school. The "beginning of the school year cookout" brings together staff members, students, and parents in an informal setting before the hustle and bustle of a new school year sets in.
"Parent involvement is important," says Point O' View guidance counselor Lynne Henry. "We have dads grilling, as well as junior volunteers and helpers from our Partners in Education serving. It is a real community activity!"
The picnic/cookout is held on the Friday before school starts. This serves as a reminder about the beginning of school and allows families to ask questions and obtain answers prior to the first day. Staff members send invitations to the parents of all registered students and to community members. The large turnout for the event often shocks even its organizers.
"For our first cookout, we didn't expect such a large crowd," Henry told Education World. "We were also surprised by the amount of positive feedback we got from the families. They enjoyed the extended time to visit the school and teachers. They didn't have that hurried feeling that a traditional open house gives."
With three cookouts behind them, Henry and her peers have learned a few tricks. They always serve staff members first so they can be comfortable and ready to greet visitors in their rooms by the time parents and students arrive. The school's teachers give up half a day of planning time to take part, so advance notice is essential. The emphasis for this event is on socialization, not learning about the curriculum.
"Parents we never see are here," reports Henry. "Kids are excited to show off the school, and the experience helps to alleviate anxiety for new students and parents. We highly recommend this community activity. It makes the school more inviting."