1st day of school has a few mishaps alarm, leaky roof

August 30, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

A leaky roof. A teary-eyed mother. A false fire alarm that left children in the rain.

A total of 23,948 children walked into the halls and classrooms for the first day at Carroll County schools yesterday, bringing no more than the usual number of mix-ups, tears and the like, officials said.

"In some ways, it's the easiest day of the year because everybody is so prepared," said Brian Lockard, who had his first opening day as superintendent. The school board hired him July 1 to replace R. Edward Shilling, who retired.

The enrollment yesterday was 702 students more than the first day of school a year ago, said Edwin Davis, director of pupil services.

Another 557 students expected were not accounted for, he said. Many of those will turn out to be students who moved but didn't notify the schools, he said.

The pre-Labor Day opening this year might be the reason some students still on vacation didn't show up, he said, but officials could only speculate until each school starts checking today on individuals.

Last year, 428 were inexplicably absent the first day, he said, a slightly lower percentage than yesterday.

Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education, said all the principals he talked with reported no problems.

"They all said it was so smooth, it was scary, but that's typical of the first day of school," said Mr. McDowell.

He agreed with Dr. Lockard's theory that the first day of school is the one day for which people have had 2 1/2 months to prepare.

"Everybody is so prepared and everybody is so scared, and that means teachers as well as students and administrators," he said.

"Fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be, that wears off after a while."

For the first time that Assistant Principal Allan Abbott can remember, not one freshman missed the bus going home at North Carroll High School's opening day.

Usually, he said, ". . . it's so confusing and all the buses are lined up and you don't know which one is yours. There's generally always at least one who misses the bus."

The elementary schools had a few more colorful incidents.

At the newly expanded and renovated Mechanicsville Elementary School, one of the lessons of the day was a crash course in how the fire alarm and fire doors work.

About 45 minutes after school started, someone -- no one knew who yesterday -- had tripped the fire alarms.

One school official theorized that the alarm triggers, mounted low to comply with new federal disability regulations, proved attractive to curious children.

But Principal Cynthia Eckenrode said no children were in the hall where the alarm went off, and it could have been an adult, such as one of the construction workers still finishing the building.

There was no fire; but to be safe, the principal ordered the building evacuated. The children knew this wasn't just a practice run.

"It was raining, and they wouldn't have made us go out [for just a drill] if it was raining," said fifth-grader Amy Spencer.

The children and teachers got out, but when it was time to go back inside, they learned another new feature of the building: security doors that lock to the outside, adding a bit more of a delay to filing back into the school.

Dorothy "Dottie" Mangle, director of elementary education, was at the school when the alarm went off, and was temporarily locked in a corridor between fire doors.

She eventually got out, and the children eventually got back in, only a little damp, she said.

"It's just that you feel so inept," she said.

Teachers at Mechanicsville were delighted by the new in-house phone system. Teachers can call the office, or each other, and were testing it yesterday morning, ringing each other to say hello, said fifth-grade teacher Lucille Bowersox.

"We wanted to make sure we knew how to work it," she said.

A leaky roof at Sandymount Elementary meant one class had to move to another room, Ms. Mangle said.

Sandymount is one of the few elementary schools with an extra room. With enrollment growing, many schools needed additional portable classrooms this year.

In general, even the elementary schools opened with few hitches, Ms. Mangle said.

"I only saw one crier, and that was a mother," she said.

Ms. Mangle said first days go smoothly because most, if not all, of the 19 elementary schools have an open house the week before school starts.

Children and parents can see where the classroom is and sometimes meet the teacher.

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