New school opens with excitement, wariness Many pupils leave old friends behind

September 09, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Clint Marshall Sr. hasn't been to elementary school in many a September. But he came yesterday with a handful of home-grown roses for the principal.

At a time of day when he usually stops at the Seven Oaks Senior Center, Mr. Marshall walked a little farther to see the shiny new Seven Oaks Elementary School, to welcome the principal and to offer his help.

Principal Karen Schafer greeted him graciously just inside the front door of the new Perry Hall school and invited him to a reception for volunteers in the cafeteria.

Around her, cameras clicked, teachers breezed through the halls -- they were the ones in the matching electric-blue T-shirts with tiny white oaks -- and parent volunteers caught last-minute instructions before 11 buses delivered their loads of slightly wary youngsters to surroundings as new as their shoes.

More than 140 schools opened in Baltimore County yesterday, but at Seven Oaks, it was the first first day of school. There were video cameras, cakes, flowers and other signs of welcome throughout the new $6 million building.

There were also about 600 students, 100 more than the school was built for. Most classrooms had 25 to 30 youngsters, and some lockers had two tenants, at least temporarily.

But the crowding didn't dampen spirits.

"The most important thing today is that the children feel good about being here," said Ms. Schafer, who spent six years as principal at Martin Boulevard Elementary School before taking over Seven Oaks.

"We have some expansion room," including the science and computer centers, which will do double duty as classrooms, she said.

Seven Oaks draws its students mainly from neighboring Perry Hall and Gunpowder elementary schools, and many are leaving friends behind.

"I think the kids are excited, but we're leaving a good school, too," said Kathy Tirocchi, whose son, Michael, attended Perry Hall last year. "A lot of friends are being split."

The school's teachers, many of whom also moved from nearby schools, hope to ease the separation anxiety.

"I know some of the children in this room," said Marlene Fowler, a fifth-grade teacher who previously taught fourth grade at Gunpowder Elementary School.

Students were subdued as they found their lockers and stashed new school supplies. "I think it's nice," said third-grader Karrie Keller, who came to Seven Oaks from Perry Hall with "a little bit of friends."

Outside her third-grade classroom, teacher Danitra Bundy was greeting former students from Perry Hall.

"It's good for them to see a face they are familiar with," she said, conceding that the move was hard for her, too. Ms. Bundy asked to move to Seven Oaks after 10 years at Perry Hall.

Ms. Schafer said she encountered only one youngster in tears -- a first-grader who, typically, wanted his mom.

Teachers from Perry Hall, Gunpowder and Carney elementary schools got preference for the 30 faculty jobs at Seven Oaks, although some teachers came from other areas of the county.

"It's been marvelous. Here we came from a lot of different schools, but we all have the same philosophy," Ms. Fowler said. "We are so excited; it's infectious."

Along a corridor are the renderings of the "ideal school" that teachers were invited to submit during orientation. Though some are quite serious -- "We need to bring the students a knowledge of the world, its wonders and its diversity" -- others are lighter.

"The perfect school," reads one, "has a swimming pool."

"A school with a screened porch and a golf green," reads another.

And some are a mix: "Happiness, learning, changes, growing, sharing love and air-conditioning!"

That's one amenity Seven Oaks doesn't have -- Baltimore County doesn't build air-conditioned schools. But the new building is fully accessible to the handicapped, and it has carpeted classrooms and a library that, when completed, will be "state-of-the-art," with much of its information available via computer, Ms. Schafer said.

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