Fearing last-day litter, some schools ban paper

June 11, 2000|By Jackie Powder and Stephanie Hanes | Jackie Powder and Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks.

Students in many Anne Arundel County schools are getting a jump on the "no more books" in that timeless start-of-summer chant -- ordered to report for the last days of class paper-free.

As days in the classroom dwindle to a few, county students are told to bring no notebooks, loose-leaf binders or books. The ban is, in part, an attempt to prevent the last-day-of-school paper drop, which typically occurs as exuberant students toss sheets of paper from buses or into streets.

School administrators say the ban helps to maintain order in the last few days, amid the excitement of awards assemblies, field days and graduations.

"Not only are you closing down, you're maintaining daily instruction and you're preparing for the fall opening," said Phyllis Cherry, principal of Old Mill Middle School South in Millersville.

"The fact that you're doing three things simultaneously leads to chaos," she said.

While the paper ban is not an official policy in Anne Arundel, many schools -- particularly middle schools -- have adopted the practice for several years, said Michael Walsh, a schools spokesman.

"It helps with the general cleanliness of the last day," he said.

At most Anne Arundel middle schools -- where the last day is Tuesday -- pupils are forbidden from bringing paper into school or carrying it out on the last three days. Schools also have pupils empty their lockers and turn in textbooks.

Like Anne Arundel, nearby counties also take steps to prevent the proliferation of paper but don't have official policies addressing the problem.

To minimize the school bus confetti-drop in Howard County, the school system's director of transportation, Glenn Johnson, asks principals to do everything possible to eliminate the need for notebooks on the last day. He also asks drivers to put trash containers on their buses so students can discard paper as they board.

In Baltimore County, principals generally have locker clean-outs a few days before the last day "to make it a safe and orderly end-of-the-year procedure," said system spokeswoman Marjorie Hampson.

Some Anne Arundel middle school principals stressed that learning takes place, but teachers must provide the paper and collect the assignments.

But to avoid the paper problem, some teachers show videos.

In addition to banning paper, Crofton Middle School Principal Richard Berzinski sent a letter home to parents yesterday with a warning that end-of-year antics from pupils won't be tolerated.

"On June 13 leave the shaving cream, water guns, raw eggs and other destructive materials at home," it declared.

Berzinski wrote that uniformed and plainclothes county police officers will be posted on school property and throughout the Crofton community, prepared to make arrests if necessary.

"I believe we have had a good school year and truly wish it to end that way," he wrote.

Anne Arundel school officials say most last-day high jinks occur at the middle school level.

At Chesapeake High School in Pasadena, where students had exams Friday, Principal Harry Calendar said things were quiet. "Middle school kids are pretty hyper compared to high school kids," he said.

At Germantown Elementary in Annapolis, Principal Bonnie Schmeltz said paper is permitted and books are in classrooms until the school year ends.

"We're doing special things," said Schmeltz, adding that the first grade held a reading tea Friday. "But ... I think it's real important to keep instruction going to the very last day."

Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson and Tanika White contributed to this article.

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