Grandparents’ Day hosted online for first time


ON POINTE: One of the pre-recorded videos available to grandparents and special friends via website entails a performance by the middle school Contemporary Dance I class, taught by performing arts teacher Joe Schenck. The video lasts about one minute and details a dance routine created by the class.

Ethan Lachman

In order to maintain the annual tradition of Grandparents and Special Friends Day, the school launched a website that allows guests to experience students’ daily lives during distance learning May 27. Through the virtual experience, guests are able to navigate a traditional school schedule at their own pace, beginning with a pre-recorded welcome video from President Rick Commons. Guests then have the option of visiting pre-recorded classes that represent the core subjects, extracurriculars, sports and affinity clubs that students participate in.

Although the event is normally hosted at the Middle School, event coordinator and Senior Advancement Administrator Marla Schlom (P ’07, ’09) said the ongoing online forum encourages guests of students from both campuses to participate, even those who live across the globe.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to include upper school grandparents and special friends for this event because in the past we’ve only done it at the Middle School because of the geography of the campus,” Schlom said. “So we’re really excited to be able to include grandparents and special friends who may be of kids who started at the Upper School [….] and stay in touch with those who have visited the middle school campus.”

Schlom said she began thinking about an online Grandparents and Special Friends Day the week before spring break but realized that such a project required a joint effort. Alongside Web Manager Lillian Contreras, who designed the website, Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89, Assistant Director of Communications Shauna Altieri and the rest of the Advancement Office, she worked for over a month to create the experience.

With approximately 1,400 guests participating compared to the event’s normal 500, Schlom said she is proud that the school found a way to open up the community to grandparents and special friends who had been looking forward to the annual tradition.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to see how Harvard-Westlake has pivoted to online learning, and also to see the creativity not only that the faculty has, but that the kids have,” Schlom said. “There’s still that joy of learning [and] all of the elements that make Harvard-Westlake what it is even though we’re not together on campus.”