New North Bend School Gets Off To Peaceful Start

September 08, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

Principal Dale Hunsinger asked a second-grade class what were some of the "responsibilities" they voted to accept at the new North Bend Elementary School.

"No loud noises," came the reply Wednesday morning.

"Use quiet voices," their teacher, Vice Principal Allyn Watson, corrected.

"No running," the 6- and 7-year-olds continued.

"Walkin the halls," Watson translated. "These are responsibilities, not rules. We try not to use negatives."

Despite teachers' best effortsto soften the transition from a summer of freedom to life at the brand new school that opened Tuesday, pupils instinctively understood that rules are rules.

But the children agreed that their move to theJarrettsville school was not the ordeal they expected.

"I thoughtI wouldn't like my new school," said 7-year-old Sarah Asaki, "but I like my new teachers and meeting new friends."

This year, Sarah could meet as many as 525 new friends coming from as far north as the Pennsylvania line or as far south as Cooptown. The $6.7 million schoolwas built to relieve overcrowding at North Harford, Norrisville, Jarrettsville and Forest Hill elementaries.

North Bend is designed tohandle as many as 625 children in its 25 classrooms. But Hunsinger is already worried about not having enough space.

With five specialeducation sections that have strict limits on class size, North Bendis already filled to capacity.

"Right now my biggest class is kindergarten, with more than 100 kids," Hunsinger said. "When more follow, that makes me believe we'll need more space."

That's a countywide problem the Board of Education hoped to correct Tuesday night whenit sought County Council support for $108 million to build 15 schools through 1997.

North Bend's opening went smoothly last week, except for a few minor glitches.

Among the most obvious was that pupils were served bag lunches while technicians scrambled to put a cafeteria oven in working order.

But even if the ovens all worked, food preparation would have been limited. The county health department barred use of water in the school because its chlorination system neededadjusting to eliminate bacteria.

Until North Bend can use its well-water system, pupils patiently line up to fill cone-shaped plastic cups from blue water bottles next to fountains.

Several of Watson's charges told their own tales of minor mix-ups after reading from their storybook, "Silly Things Happen."

"On the first day of school the bus driver went around the block and started to come around againbut we stopped her," said Amanda Hoopes, who said she was 6 1/2. "Today, she did it again."

A contingent of about 10 parents also lined up in the principal's office to complain that bus stops weren't close enough to their homes in the far-flung school district.

"But yesterday, every kid got home where they were supposed to be on time," Hunsinger said.

Another 30 children were dropped off as early as 7a.m. and picked up as late as 6 p.m. by their parents, who made use of a day-care center run by the YMCA in the cafeteria.

The hallways were strangely quiet in the cavernous school, which looks from the outside like a newly built big-city bus station.

Children politelylined up to use the bathrooms.

Hunsinger attributed pupil attitudes to the decision to let them plan their own futures. Besides deciding school rules, they chose the school's blue and maroon colors and will pick a North Bend mascot when the school is formally dedicated next Sunday.

Hunsinger also said the transition was eased by the months of meetings he held with parents and his own tour of North Bend'sfeeder schools.

Josh Stifler, who celebrated his seventh birthdayWednesday, backed the principal up, saying, "We met you when you came to our school."

The pupil and principal had another connection that began 27 years ago.

"When I first started teaching, both his mother and dad were in my sixth-grade class at Youth Benefit Elementary School," Hunsinger said.

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