It was a typical Wednesday evening as children and their dads laughed, played and ate with one other after a full day of school and work.
But in Richmond County, a local school program brought them together under one roof.
On Jan. 23, Richmond County Elementary School (RCES) held a “review night” for WATCH D.O.G.S., a nationally recognized program designed to give students positive male role models in the classrooms.
WATCH D.O.G.S, fully named “Dads of Great Students,” was implemented at RCES one week into the current school year.
The program aims to provide extra sets of eyes and ears throughout the school to enhance security and cut down on student bullying.
Davis Roberts, the principal of the elementary school, spoke of the additional duties that dads take on within the program.
“We ask them to donate one day out of the school year to come spend time at the school,” said Roberts. “They’re helping out with security, unloading buses and [volunteering at] any kind of special event [such as] Picture Day.”
Other tasks include monitoring the school’s hallways and entrances, assisting at lunch and recess, refereeing in the gym, speaking to classes about the importance of education and career choices and chaperoning students on field trips and away games.
Roberts said his goal was to have at least one dad in the building every day throughout the school year.
Although RCES won’t be able to fulfill that goal this year, Roberts was pleased to tell the dads at the review night that there was a father in the school every day during the week of Jan. 14.
The review night was filled with fun family games and a question-and-answer session that created a conversation between fathers and their children, giving them an opportunity to spend quality time together after school.
Roberts said the event also allowed the school to garner input from fathers about the program.
“It enables us to see how folks liked the program and do a little bit of recruitment,” he added.
Two groups of dads and their children rotated through the building after starting the evening with an educational video on the importance of the WATCH D.O.G. program.
Fathers of third, fourth and fifth graders gathered in the music room as parent and volunteer Benjamin Simpson stressed the need for greater security.
“We all know what’s been going in the schools,” said Simpson in reference to the Sandy Hook tragedy. “It’s a very important program to make sure nothing like that happens here.”
Shortly after, the gentlemen lined up against the wall in the fifth grade hallway opposite their sons and daughters.
There were smiles, fist-pumps and high fives all around as dads tried to guess their child’s favorite activities and vice versa in a question-and-answer session similar to the “newlyweds” game.
The principal then led parents and children into the gymnasium, where the students impressed the adults with their throwing arms in a game of dodge ball.
Afterwards, the group sat down in the cafeteria where they were served pizza. As Simpson looked proudly on dads sitting together with their children at dinnertime, he shared his thoughts on being part of the WATCH D.O.G. program.
“It’s a blast,” he said, “Kids are coming up and giving me high fives and hugs…I’ve volunteered in [Susan] Packett’s class during reading and it’s a fight to see who’s going to be in my reading group.”
“Kids can’t wait to read,” he added excitedly. “It’s great.”
Roberts said he hopes to continue the program and expand it to include both Richmond County Intermediate and Rappahannock High School.
“It was a huge night,” commented Roberts on the review session. “It was really good to see all the dads coming in to be with their kids.”