It's back to school

Arundel system plans more 'real-world' experiences

August 24, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Instead of the traditional biology class for freshmen, it will be physics at North County High School. At Meade High School, students might be taking field trips to the nearby National Security Agency or tackle such assignments as concocting an emergency evacuation plan.

In an effort to engage students in more real-world experiences in the classroom, Anne Arundel County's public schools will launch the school year tomorrow with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) magnet program at North County and a homeland security "signature" program at Meade.

Among the other changes, the school system is raising the prices of breakfasts and lunches this week, adding 10 minutes to the school day, expanding the lauded Middle Years program within two schools and opening the $24.6 million Nantucket Elementary School in Crofton.

Schools will reopen on a staggered schedule for the 73,852 county students. Kindergarten and full-day pre-kindergarten students will begin on a three-day staggered schedule beginning Wednesday. Children in grades 1 to 6 and ninth grades will begin tomorrow, followed by students in grades 7, 8 and 10 through 12 Tuesday.

The schedule is designed to give the youngest students in middle and high schools an opportunity to adjust to a new building before their older peers arrive. Twelve other schools will open Tuesday or Wednesday because of construction projects.

The school system has hired 432 new teachers, 23 new principals and 31 new assistant principals for the school year. Officials pointed out that they will begin school with about 20 positions left unfilled, versus 75 this time last year.

About 100 freshmen are set to participate in STEM at North County High in Glen Burnie, where students participated in a two-week bridge program this summer, said Principal Frank Drazen, a former chemistry teacher.

"They should experience science," Drazen said. "It shouldn't be just book learning. It should be doing science. That's one of the things we really wanted to foster here."

The magnet program, which will accept more students each year interested in the sciences, will offer an eventual enrollment of about 400 kids. The school has also developed a partnership with Anne Arundel Community College, in which instructors will provide training in environmental issues.

At Meade, which is on Fort Meade, the homeland security program will enroll close to 90 freshmen, expanding the basic curriculum to feature concepts related to security and terrorism. Students, who were recruited in middle school, will be taking such classes as English 9, matter and energy and social studies, and will be exposed to aspects of homeland security, said Assistant Principal Yolanda Clark.

"The whole purpose is just to infuse homeland security in the air," Clark said.

Additionally, the Middle Years program, a precursor to the demanding International Baccalaureate program offered in three high schools, will be expanded at two middle schools. Old Mill Middle School North and MacArthur Middle School will now offer the program to the entire school.

The price of school breakfasts and lunches will increase this year for the first time in four years. Breakfast at the county's elementary and secondary schools will cost $1.25. Lunch will cost $2 at elementary schools and $2.25 at secondary schools.

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