Southern High opens its elementary wing Deale students, K-5, will borrow classrooms for 2 years

September 02, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

As the first bus rolled to a stop in front of Southern High School at three minutes before 9 yesterday morning, little faces with wide eyes were pressed against the windows.

The nearly 200 students from Deale Elementary School had a good reason to have more than the usual first-day-of-school jitters. It was also the first day at their temporary quarters at the high school, where they will remain for two years while their school is renovated.

But with the sight of a familiar teacher or a favorite classmate, soon there were smiles all around.

Paula Dickerson admitted that "it's a little scary" dropping her 9-year-old daughter Mitzi off at a high school that is 10 miles from Deale. But Mitzi, who was sporting a snazzy denim book bag with her name embroidered on it, said she wasn't nervous "because I know Lisa's going to be in there, and she's my best friend."

Classes began for 63,595 students in the county, and from all indications yesterday, there were few problems. By the time classes start tomorrow for students at Annapolis High School and on Sept. 13 at North County High School, enrollment will reach 66,816 students.

That number could climb as families that planned vacations until Labor Day return, said school system spokeswoman Jane Doyle.

Students at Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis got a one-day reprieve when airborne asbestos fibers were discovered Tuesday after ceiling tiles were broken during some minor construction. No asbestos particles were found in an air quality test early yesterday morning, but by that time it was too late to reverse the decision to cancel school. Classes will begin this morning.

The decision to relocate Deale Elementary to Southern High School was greeted warily last spring.

"When they presented it to us, we were not happy," said Sandra Oleksy, whose daughter Jessica is in the first grade.

"That's my baby there, the most precious thing in the world to me. To watch them go off to a big school, it's kind of scary, for them and for us," she said. "They had to work real hard to convince us it was going to be OK. We're all for expansion, but we're concerned about our kids, too."

She felt better after she toured the classrooms. Grades two through five are segregated on the second floor of one wing. High school students will be prevented from passing through. Kindergarten and first grade are on the first floor near high school classrooms, but they have their own bathroom.

"It's been the hit of the tour, I'll tell you," said Deale Principal Judith Strauff, as she showed off the rest room with the 1-foot-tall toilet. "The tiniest little bathroom you ever saw."

Some of the fears were caused by older children telling some tall tales. Becky Sirmons, a 7-year-old second grader, said she was frightened because some youngsters told her "people shot people here."

Her mother, Cathy Sirmons, assured her that was not true.

"The older kids [at Southern Middle School] kind of teased them about it really bad," Ms. Sirmons said. "I think they were kind of jealous."

In fact, Ms. Sirmons prefers that her daughter go to the high school -- where the students are presumably more mature -- than a middle school. "To be honest, if they had to go to the middle school, I probably would have transferred them," she said.

Southern High School Principal Don Buchanan agreed that teen-agers are getting to the point where "they've started being nice to young kids again."

"I think that they want to be like an older brother or uncle, or an older sister or aunt," he said.

Nonetheless, he has laid down the law.

"I told them very clearly that if they are caught in that area [set aside for the elementary school], or if my students teased or harassed their students, I will suspend them until I talk to their parents," he said.

The guests did cause a bit of a hardship, because the high school had to give up precious classroom space.

"But it's refreshing to go out and see these small kids," Mr. Buchanan said. "They're so cute."

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