Pupils answer early bell First day of school called 'best ever'

August 31, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

It's not clear who was more excited about the first day of school yesterday, kindergartner Tony Thewes of Laurel or his mother, Donna -- though it was probably Mrs. Thewes.

"He came here when he was in strollers," said Mrs. Thewes, mother of three and past PTA president, who once towed Tony to meetings and volunteer days at Laurel Woods Elementary School.

Yesterday, she stood by delighted as 5-year-old Tony and three other students handed state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick a red boutonniere to commemorate Dr. Grasmick's opening day visit to Laurel Woods.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer had been expected to attend, but the governor's staff told school officials that he had become ill over the weekend and was unable to make the trip.

Countywide, it was a smooth first day back for the district's 34,000 students, said Patti Caplan, school spokeswoman.

"We've gotten really good reports," said Ms. Caplan. "I talked to a number of schools, and they said this was the best day ever."

School officials reported no major snags as a result of a schedule change that had many students starting their day 15 minutes earlier than last year, a move made necessary in part by a $380,000 cut to the transportation budget.

As a result of that change, high schools opened at 7:30 a.m., many middle schools at 7:45 and some elementary schools at 8:15 a.m.

School officials also weren't aware of any scheduling conflicts with students involved in agricultural activities who had to miss the first day of school because of the state fair, Ms. Caplan said.

The day's main event involved Dr. Grasmick and a contingent of local politicians and school officials who toured Laurel Woods, as TV cameras rolled and parents and others watched.

Dr. Grasmick read the story "Potluck," by Anne Shelby, to Robin Woolaver's first-grade class, and answered questions in Kathy Jacobs' fifth-grade class.

Ten-year-old Angela Lantrey, decked out in a colorful Mickey Mouse T-shirt and gold and black hair band, asked Dr. Grasmick how it feels to be Maryland's first female state school superintendent.

"It's a special honor to be the first woman in the state of Maryland to have this position," she responded. "And I hope to be a model for other young women."

As the dignitaries made the rounds, the 630 students at Laurel Woods settled into the routine they will follow for the next 179 school days.

Vernice Lacy's third-grade class was already deep into an assignment the first day. Students started a project about Maryland geography, writing a brief essay on their favorite place to visit in the state.

Brian Ringer, 8, chose the Baltimore Zoo. "I went there often during summer," he said.

At Ellicott Mills Middle School, meanwhile, Principal Sylvester Burke ironed out a few opening day wrinkles, helping frustrated students open their lockers and directing others to their classes.

"So far, so good," said Mr. Burke. "You have the typical thing -- some kids missing their buses, or some buses missing the kids."

Ellicott Mills' new 8 a.m. starting time -- 15 minutes earlier than last year -- hasn't seemed to bother students, Mr. Burke said.

"Kids are just quicker than adults," he said. "I think if we get our kids here earlier, it's more refreshing for them. And they like getting out of school earlier. At 2:45 p.m., they're clamoring to leave."

"We get out earlier, so I like it," said Robert Hallsky, 12, a seventh-grader.

Not all the students agreed.

Seventh-grader Ronald Coursey said he'd had a hard time waking up -- but that's because he had become used to late nights during the summer. "I wasn't used to waking up early," he said. "When my alarm rang, I didn't want to get up."

Classmate Amy Miller woke up feeling a bit depressed about the summer ending. Her spirits were boosted when she learned that she had a roomier locker this year.

At Oakland Mills High School, more than 1,000 students were happy to leave at day's end, when a fleet of yellow school buses idled in front.

Eighteen-year-old Helena Sahand headed home with an armful of books. She had homework already, especially in Biology II. But she's glad to be back. She's a senior this year, and seniors rule the school, she said.

"We're the leader," she said. "People look up to you."

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