Plenty of firsts on schools' 1st day Some pupils get lost, or join 'big' school

others enter unknown

August 27, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Lisa Respers and Kris Antonelli contributed to this article.

Stepping off the school bus yesterday for his first day of first grade at Franklin Elementary School, Dustin Baker wore an awfully grown-up look. He wasn't grinning, like the red-headed girl. He wasn't bawling, like the blond girl.

He was, judging by his drawn face and darting eyes, nervous but brave. And lost.

"I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be," he asked, attracting a helping hand -- from state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, of all people.

Grasmick, on hand with Baltimore County Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione as the Reisterstown school opened, ushered the boy into the school. Soon enough, young Dustin found his classroom, and another academic year was set to begin for most of the county's 104,000 public school students.

Yesterday was a day for teachers to wear neckties with school bus designs, and for students to hit the school store for favorites such as "eraser rings" -- which are meant to slip around pencils, but more often end up worn as faux earrings and nose rings.

Judging by the young faces, it was a day for giddy anticipation, frayed nerves and, more than anything else, fighting a fear of the unknown. At Franklin Elementary, that meant helping 6-year-olds find name tags and teachers.

At Sparrows Point Middle School, that meant giving sixth-graders a day's head start on students from the seventh and eighth grades. And at Deer Park Elementary School, that meant reassuring parents that last school year's air quality problems are history.

Dana Camak picked up his son, Devin, 10, and daughter, Nicole, 8, at the Owings Mills school in the afternoon.

"They are comfortable and I am comfortable, so I'm happy to have them back in their old school building," he said.

At Sparrows Point Middle, sixth-graders were treated to a breakfast of Rice Krispies and chocolate milk, and allowed to have the school to themselves. Principal Linda Cimines said the youngsters typically are nervous about making the jump from elementary school to the "big" school.

How can she tell?

"They're quiet," she said, "and they're very compliant."

Nervous start

Students there said they were nervous about everything from remembering their locker combinations to bullies in the upper grades.

"It's kind of scary -- a lot scary, actually," said sixth-grader Matt Ritchie, who is moving from Battle Grove Elementary to the middle school. "All these people talking about the dreaded showers and getting stuffed in the lockers."

But he added, "I like the lockers. It's your own little place you can put your private stuff. It's kind of neat."

Baltimore County, one of four area localities to begin the school year yesterday, opened its 160 schools before Labor Day for only the second year in recent memory. The county school board sets the school calendar, and Marchione, who visited five schools yesterday, supports the earlier opening.

He said a later start, and any snow days, could push the school year into the third week of June -- and interfere with summer schools and camps.

Harford, Baltimore City wait

Students from Anne Arundel, Howard and Carroll counties also returned to school yesterday; Harford County and Baltimore schools are to open next week.

In Howard County, roughly 39,000 students returned to classrooms. Three new schools opened in Howard, and a 2-year-old building that had temporarily housed Wilde Lake High School's students celebrated a new identity: River Hill High School.

To mark the occasion, River Hill Principal Scott Pfeifer wore a tuxedo with a powder-blue bow tie.

In Anne Arundel County, where some students are going to split sessions to allow for renovations at crowded Broadneck High, about 73,000 students returned to schools.

About 25,000 students showed up for opening day in Carroll County schools. Officials in the largely rural county said some of the more than 500 students who failed to show might have excused absences for participating in the Maryland State Fair this week in Timonium.

The fair -- and the number of students who take part in its 4-H events -- is one reason that Harford County schools do not open until after Labor Day, said spokesman Donald R. Morrison.

Baltimore County schools spokesman Donald I. Mohler III said an informal survey of county schools showed attendance yesterday at about 98 percent. At Deer Park, the attendance rate was lower; officials said at least 28 of about 500 students missed the first day of school.

Tickets and teddy bears

Also yesterday, county police presented speeding drivers with tickets and young passengers with teddy bears as part of a two-day program designed to encourage people to drive safely while school is in session.

Under Operation H.A.S.T.E., Helping Arriving Students Through Enforcement, police targeted six areas around elementary schools, looking for speeders and other traffic violators.

Lt. Kathleen C. Meeks of the Traffic Resources Unit said, "For every bit of enforcement we do, we want to educate them and explain why we want them to take it easy while the kids are going to school and coming home."

Police reported no traffic mishaps involving schoolchildren yesterday, adding that they wrote 80 tickets or warnings.

Grasmick reads to class

At Franklin Elementary, state school Superintendent Grasmick sat before a class of second-graders and read "Bea and Mr. Jones," a fantasy in which a kindergarten girl trades places with her father -- and wows Madison Avenue with a new ad slogan.

When Grasmick asked the students whose job they'd like to try, one young boy seemed to sense that his future holds no limits.

"I would like to trade," said Joshua Zelefsky, "with the president of the United States."

Pub Date: 8/27/96

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