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The Christmas spirit arrived early at Platte Center Elementary School on Friday while students built gingerbread houses with their grandparents.

“The kids love this day because they get to spend time with their grandparents,” Principal Quentin Witt said. “We also feel like we needed to create a bond with the community, as well.”

School administrators invited grandparents to visit the school, 155 Platte St., on Friday as one of their many efforts to promote family time. The doors were also open to parents and Platte Center residents to accompany students whose grandparents couldn't make it to the program.

Witt said there were guests visiting from surrounding areas like Norfolk and Lincoln, too.

Each student was encouraged to bring items like marshmallows, chocolates, candy canes and assorted candies to be used as decorations. Supplies were distributed equally among groups.

“It’s a great turnout,”  first-grade teacher Holly Sprunk said. “The kids were really looking forward to it.”

Dan Costello is no stranger to the school. He said this was his sixth time participating in a family event at the school because it’s a way for him to spend time with his 6-year-old grandson, Kash Berkeland.

“It’s just a good time,” Costello said. “(Grandparents) get to spend more one-on-one time with their grandkids and see their school and how everything’s going.”

Kash said he enjoys having his grandparents visit because they are a lot of fun.

Platte Center native Eric Benes participated in the program for the first time on Friday, noting it’s tough for him to find free time because of his hectic work schedule.

“It’s a good day with my child,” said Benes, who was accompanying his 7-year-old daughter, Olivia.

Guests were given the opportunity to have lunch with the students before diving into the construction portion of the program.

Sprunk said she’s fortunate to experience the family activities as a parent and a teacher. Before taking up the faculty position at the school, Sprunk said she had participated in several programs at the school in the past as a parent for her children who are currently in sixth and third grade.

“It’s a great school to be a part of for both a parent and a teacher,” she said.

Witt said it’s important for family members to be involved with the school. By attending family activities, they can take a closer look at the different school programs and facilities.

However, the festivities do not stop there.

Witt said the school will be hosting a “Holidays from around the World” event on Dec. 19. Students and community members will be able to learn diverse traditions from individuals from Poland, Ireland, Switzerland and Mexico, among others.

“It’s a chance for us to showcase the great things that are going on in our school,” Witt said. "We are always trying to engage the community."

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at

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