Schools close book on summer 68,000 students in Howard, Carroll head back to class

August 25, 1998|By Jackie Powder and Erika Peterman | Jackie Powder and Erika Peterman,SUN STAFF

Schools opened for 68,000 children in Howard and Carroll counties yesterday with some first-day jitters, concerns about the heat and instructions on the etiquette for using school lockers.

At the new Gorman Crossing Elementary School in North Laurel, Mary Hanna, a first-year teacher, admitted to having butterflies in the moments before she greeted her 22 fifth-graders.

She had studied four years, worked for a week and arrived two hours early yesterday to prepare for just this moment -- and it went off without a hitch.

"All right, everybody is here this morning. That's great!" said Hanna, 21. "Good morning. My name is Miss Hanna. I'm so excited to have you all here. We're going to have so much fun!"

While schools elsewhere in Maryland open tomorrow and over the next few weeks, some 41,500 students in Howard and 26,618 in Carroll got an early jump on the school year.

School officials reported smooth openings in both jurisdictions.

In Carroll County, the buzz among Maria Griffith's second-graders at the new Linton Springs Elementary School in Sykesville was about their bright blue lockers.

Griffith's students sat in a hallway, their mouths agape, heads tilted up for her instructions on how to use the lockers. They hung on her every word.

"You will see that we have hooks so if you have an umbrella, book bag or coat, you don't have to put everything on one hook," Griffith said. "This is your locker. You keep that locker the way you feel comfortable with it."

She also demonstrated how to quietly close the lockers, and she set down some rules.

"The lockers are not for toys," Griffith said. "We do not have any toys coming to school."

Carroll County's director of pupil services, Edwin Davis, said 26,618 students reported for classes yesterday, 421 more than last year. He said final enrollment figures won't be available until Sept. 30.

"It has been a very quiet, very routine first day," said Carey Gaddis, county schools spokeswoman.

In Carroll, where three schools have no air conditioning, some parents called to ask whether they were going to close because of the heat.

Charles Carroll and William Winchester elementary schools and North Carroll Middle School have no air conditioning. Francis Scott Key and South Carroll high schools, and Mount Airy, Sykesville and West middle schools are partially air-conditioned.

Richard Huss, the principal at Charles Carroll Elementary, said students and staff held up well in yesterday's heat.

"It's hot, but it's surely workable," Huss said. "Everyone is so focused on the opening, and the excitement of the day counterbalances it."

Linton Springs was one of two new schools to open yesterday in Carroll.

In Union Bridge, students returned to classes at the new Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary School, which was built on the old school's site. The 66-year-old building was demolished last year.

Principal Mary Stong said the only problem yesterday was overcrowding on some school buses, which she planned to resolve with minor route changes.

She said students were disappointed that the playgrounds were not ready. The large playground, for use by grades one through five, was scheduled to be ready today. The playground for preschool and kindergarten children is scheduled to be completed next week.

The new building has air conditioning, a feature that students and faculty appreciated as the temperature reached 94 degrees by yesterday afternoon.

"We've never had an air-conditioned building before," Stong said.

Teachers gave their students tours of the new building, but Stong said she expected some children to get lost during the first days of classes. The building is a rectangle so lost students will invariably end up back at the administrative office, where they can get help, she said.

"It's just like the Wizard of Oz. You just keep following the pathway," Stong said.

Yesterday's school openings came after days of preparation.

Hanna, for instance, spent last week decorating the walls of her North Laurel classroom with calendars, a "helping hands" board, a birthday caterpillar and countless other cheerful bulletin boards and paper decorations.

But she acknowledged that she started her first day as a science and language arts teacher with a plethora of concerns.

Would she run out of things to do? Would the kids be bored? What would her students be like?

The first day has "run through my head so many times now. There are so many things to go over," Hanna said. "I was never this nervous student-teaching. Now, it's like, I'm the only [teacher] in the room. There is no easing into it."

With her youthful face and spray of brown freckles, Hanna looks as if she could easily be the big sister of most of her students. During her student-teaching at a middle school, one student, slightly perplexed, asked, "Are you one of us?"

"I never had a doubt in my mind. I was really lucky," said Hanna, who graduated from Ellicott City's Centennial High School in 1994 and Towson University this year. "I love kids. I knew I wanted to work with kids."

First day of school

Anne Arundel County, Monday

Baltimore City, Monday

Baltimore County, tomorrow

Frederick County, Monday

Harford County, Sept. 8

Queen Anne's County, tomorrow

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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