Deer Park Elementary pupils resume class at other schools Many were withdrawn March 18 after parents found pools of antifreeze

April 16, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

For Deer Park Elementary School students, yesterday had all the excitement usually reserved for the first day of school -- and in a way, it was.

Students from the troubled school near Randallstown entered Hernwood Elementary School and Deer Park Middle and Magnet School yesterday after almost three weeks away from the classroom.

Students have been shifted to the two schools until officials can determine whether Deer Park Elementary's building is hazard-free.

Deer Park Elementary was closed March 27 -- three days before spring break -- after parents complained that their children were becoming ill from antifreeze leaking from the heating system.

Some students, however, were away from the classroom even longer -- kept home in protest after a March 18 meeting alerted parents that school officials knew about the leak for months.

Yesterday, students searched out unfamiliar classrooms and reunited with friends. At Deer Park Middle School, the elementary students were greeted by colorful signs directing them to their classes, and enthusiastic older students eager to help.

Seventh-grader Jaime Randall was dressed in a colorful clown costume to greet the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who will be housed temporarily at the middle school.

"I want them to feel welcomed," said Jaime, 12.

George E. Hohl, principal of the middle school, jokingly told students over the public address system that after seeing "all of the things offered in the cafeteria you may not want to go back to the elementary school."

As he escorted some elementary school parents on a tour of the classrooms, Dr. Hohl said, "Children are very, very flexible, I've found. We are here to answer any questions or concerns the parents may have."

Parents had voiced concern about overcrowding and interaction between the younger students and the middle school students.

Dr. Hohl said schedules had been arranged so the Deer Park Elementary and middle students changed classes at different times. To prevent overcrowding, classrooms normally used for six periods were being used for seven.

Deer Park students also attended Hernwood Elementary School, which was temporarily closed for its own students yesterday.

Deer Park Principal Beth M. Strauss, who has been working out of Hernwood -- where pre-kindergartners through second-graders are attending classes -- said students settled into their temporary home with no problems.

School officials aren't sure how long the Deer Park Elementary students will be housed at the two schools.

One parent, Vivian Lawson, peeked into a Deer Park Middle School activities room where partitions had been set for three fifth-grade classes. She hopes the makeshift classrooms won't last.

"I think the kids are very excited to be back in school, and given the amount of time [school officials] had to work with, I think it's a great setup," said Mrs. Lawson, whose daughters are in the third and fifth grades.

"I just hope it doesn't last too long."

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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