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School embraces parental input
Every time Ginger Schrimsher walks into St. Simons Elementary School on St. Simons Island she's greeted by familiar faces.

She was Wednesday afternoon when she stopped at the school to have lunch with her son, William, a second-grader.

"The staff and teachers really welcome us with open arms all the time," she said. "They know us parents by name."

She wasn't the only parent visiting the school Wednesday. Others showed up to spend the lunch period with their children for a special Reward Day.

Schrimsher says the family-friendly atmosphere at the school has been something she has greatly appreciated since her son's pre-kindergarten days.

"We're close with the teachers. I've even brought my son's teacher her favorite soda drink," Schrimsher said as she held up a cup. "The environment here is incredibly important for the kids and parents. It makes the family feel more welcome in the school, which in turn really helps your children learn better."

It just so happens that the school is one of nine finalists for the Georgia State Department of Education's Family-Friendly School Award, which recognizes Title I schools that have created a welcoming environment that leads to increased student achievement.

Principal Suzanne Clements felt the award would be a fitting honor for the school.

"The parents really love to come by and we hear a lot of positive remarks from them," Clements said. "I thought, 'This school is family friendly, why not apply for something that you feel is who you are?'"

Clements recruited her school council chairperson, her Parent-Teacher Association president and her parent involvement coordinator and got started on filling out the application for the award.

Going through the process has helped the school become even more accommodating, she said.

"The process includes very specific surveys, which I liked particularly because it approached areas we'd never thought of," Clements said. "For example, we've never had a visitor designated parking space. Parking is tough here on this end of the island, but the No. 1 concern from our parents in the survey was parking. We made the request for parking and now have three visitor signs up."

Clements says the school has been able to easily accommodate other concerns listed in the survey.

"The truth is, we're all in this together - parents, community and school - and if you don't have those three entities on board with you, I don't think you can make as big a difference as possible in a child's life," she said. "To me, every school should be parent friendly. Our parents and guardians are a part of the child's whole life. We need to work on the same things."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.

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