Smiles, nerves on first day

Baltimore County opens its first public charter school, a day late but with typical excitement, in Woodlawn

August 27, 2008|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,

Dressed in their yellow and navy blue uniforms, more than 450 boys and girls stepped inside the yellow-painted hallways of Imagine Discovery yesterday morning as Baltimore County's first public charter school opened its doors, a day later than planned.

Many of the children were accompanied by parents and grandparents, some with cameras in hand.

The Woodlawn school started classes yesterday instead of Monday because it needed a final inspection for an occupancy permit.

But the one-day delay didn't lessen the first-day jitters and excitement among those entering the building.

"I'm really excited," said Tina Coates as she walked in her kindergartner, Anaiah, 5, who sported a Dora the Explorer backpack. A couple of weeks ago, Coates said, she wasn't sure her daughter would be at the school because she was on a waiting list.

"I'm ready to go to school," Anaiah said, smiling.

Tara Sutton of Windsor Mill said she was nervous about her only child's foray into the new school.

"I wanted her to have a new experience, and I heard good things about charter schools," she said, explaining why she chose Imagine Discovery for Daysha Bunch, 4.

Some of those "things" - the student-teacher ratio and increased parent involvement - drew Margarete Jones of Woodlawn. Although she can't afford private school for twins Christopher and Jordan, 7, "this gives you that environment a little more," said Jones, standing inside the school's gymnasium and cafeteria yesterday morning, where scores of parents and students waited to meet teachers and grab some breakfast.The students, who range from kindergarten to fourth grade, spent yesterday getting to know their new teachers and classrooms.

Once they'd pulled on lanyards attached to name cards and found their seats, Jamie Ferguson's second-graders cracked open fresh boxes of crayons to color a beach-scene drawing, under which they wrote about one fun thing they did during the summer.

"It's OK if you can't spell everything," Ferguson said. "Just try your best."

Later, she invited her students to share their work.

Guidance counselor Christina Sargent entered the room after a while to introduce herself.

"Who's feeling a little scared?" she asked. One hand went up.

"Anybody feeling nervous?"

More hands rose in response.

"Who's tired?"

Every single hand shot in the air, followed by shouts of different wake-up times.

Principal Sharon Harris' day also began rather early. She woke up about 3:30 a.m., she said, too excited to sleep.

"I wanted it to be perfect," she said of the first day. "I wanted the parents to understand that we've got this."

Harris, a former assistant principal at Windsor Mill Middle School, has high hopes - and high expectations - for the school year.

"My students are all coming here with [gifted and talented] status," she said in an earlier interview. "Whatever it's in, we'll find it. And whatever we're lacking, we'll find it."

Harris and Pat Crain, Maryland regional director for Imagine Schools, both said the day launched smoothly.

"I just want to see this kind of a day every day," Harris said.

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