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WCPS driver to be featured on 'Early Show'

June 02, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

FUNKSTOWN -- Paulette Sirbaugh's daughter graduated from high school about eight years ago, but the Funkstown resident is trying to keep up with a 5-year-old again.

Sirbaugh, 62, is raising her granddaughter while her daughter serves as a U.S. Army staff sergeant stationed temporarily in Florida. Sirbaugh's situation caught the attention of "The Early Show" on CBS, and a crew finished a second day of taping at Sirbaugh's East Maple Street home on May 21.

An airdate had not been scheduled, but Sirbaugh said she believes her story will be told along with those of other families caring for the children of servicemen and servicewomen.

Sirbaugh said her granddaughter, Juliana Gutowski, has been living with her since August 2008, and will stay until her mother has a more permanent assignment.

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Sirbaugh said she was reluctant at first to be filmed for the CBS show. CBS learned about her situation when she attended a support group meeting for those raising their grandchildren. Sirbaugh agreed to be interviewed over the phone, but declined a later invitation to be interviewed in the studio.

She said a crew then offered to film at her home, and Sirbaugh gave in. The first day of filming came on the day of Juliana's fifth birthday -- April 3 -- when her mother, Georgia Gutowski, 24, was able to take leave.

Gutowski graduated from South Hagerstown High School in 2001 and went into the military the following September. She was in basic training on Sept. 11, 2001.

Gutowski was living with Juliana in Alaska about a year ago when she was told she was going to be deployed and Sirbaugh began taking care of Juliana. Sirbaugh expects that Juliana will stay with her until at least Christmas.

Sirbaugh said cameras captured her working as a Washington County Public Schools bus driver during the last day of filming. She has driven a school bus for 21 years.

She said her job enables her to take Juliana to school at Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education, where she is enrolled in prekindergarten.

Sirbaugh said she's had to adjust to having a 5-year-old in the house again. She has no more free time and isn't able to do some things, like go to a flea market or work in the yard, she said.

Going shopping at Valley Mall is more about keeping up with Juliana than shopping, and Sirbaugh said she spends more time watching "SpongeBob SquarePants" than the news.

"As soon as you wake up ... it's stress. But I don't really feel it's really a hardship," Sirbaugh said.

Juliana has discovered her mother's old toys and Barbie dolls.

"They're getting a second go-around," Sirbaugh said.

Despite the adjustments she has made, Sirbaugh says she'll miss her granddaughter when she moves back in with her mother. She already is worrying about a month-long visit Juliana will have with her mother in Florida over the summer.

"That's going to be all new surroundings for her," Sirbaugh said.

She's been asking her daughter what Juliana will do while she is at work, and who will look after her. Sirbaugh said she has begun preparing herself for the day Juliana moves out.

"All that noise is driving me crazy," Sirbaugh said. "But then you can't stand the quiet."

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