Though students at Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary School in Schenectady were fidgeting during Tuesday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama, most realized the significance of this event.
“I think it’s an historic moment — finally having a black president,” said 10-year-old fifth-grader Kendrick Bryant, adding he wants Obama to lower taxes.
Principal Pedro Roman, who was appropriately dressed with an American flag tie, said that classes were doing different tasks. Some were coloring a drawing of Obama and others were decorating a picture of the 44th president. Also, students were writing goals about what they want Obama to do.
“He’s a good president,” said 10-year-old fifth-grader Marielis Rodriguez even before Obama had taken the oath. She added that he is going to change things a little bit.
Ten-year-old Jakira Wright, a fourth-grader, wanted to stop war and violence. “Bring the people back from Iraq.”
Ending pollution was 9-year-old fourth-grader Avion Bell’s goal for Obama.
Fifth-grade teacher Rick DeCarr said he was going to shoot video clips of students telling how they felt about Obama’s speech and then string them together and set them to music.
Students then gathered in the hallway to watch the television coverage projected on a large screen.
Even the younger students understood what was going on to some degree, said kindergarten teacher Katherine Mathias. “This is going to be in the history books when they get older and they were able to sit here and watch it,” she said.
While the students showed little interest in the procession of former presidents to the platform, they quieted down when Obama took the stage to take the oath of office.
“Today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America,” Obama said during the speech.
Other schools across the region were also doing activities in conjunction with the inauguration. In Rotterdam, Schalmont Middle School Principal Michael Kondartowicz said the interest was palpable. “They listened very attentively.”
Kondartowicz said students had a vested interest in this election process, perhaps because Obama was the first African-American nominated by a major political party. They had followed the campaign and the school held a mock election, which Obama won.
Principal Greer Miller of Division Street Elementary School in Saratoga Springs also said the children were extremely excited about the festivities. The school had a computer projecting the events on a big screen in the cafeteria. They also had televisions in classrooms and the media center.
“The students were really cute and they were applauding when the people in Washington were applauding. … They were standing when it was appropriate to stand. It’s one of those things that they’ll definitely remember throughout their adulthood.”
At the Raphael J. McNulty Academy for International Studies and Literacy — a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school in Amsterdam — Principal Barbara Petersen said she could hear a pin drop when she came into the building at lunch time because the classes were watching the inauguration. She said she talked to the teachers and even the kindergartners knew how important this was.
“I think a lot of families talked about the historical importance of this,” she said.