Pupils, Parents Sneak A Peek At Sandy Plains

Hundreds Get An Early Look Before School Starts Monday

August 29, 2009|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,arin.gencer@baltsun.com

Sitting at the desk that would be hers for the school year, Casey Burton peered inside the new, black backpack she found hanging on the back of her chair and smiled.

"Look, you got a notebook this year," said her mother, Rebecca West.

The 7-year-old's smile grew wider as West pointed out other materials: a new pencil box, fresh pencils, crayons and scissors.

"And," the second-grader said, holding them up with a grin, "I got glue sticks."

She and hundreds of others had poured into Dundalk's Sandy Plains Elementary on Friday afternoon for "Sneak a Peek at Your Seat," during which they met their teachers, explored their classrooms and glimpsed some of the classmates they would be rubbing elbows with Monday, when school starts in Baltimore County.

Students, parents and siblings were clustered outside the building more than half an hour before the event started, undeterred by the rain as they scanned class lists.

"It makes me feel less nervous," said Jaelin Tillman, 10, of being able to scope things out before the first day. The fifth-grader said he was excited about embarking on his final year at Sandy Plains - and returning to one of his favorite subjects, math.

But Friday was marked by an extra bit of excitement: Students received new backpacks stocked with school supplies, donated by nurses and staff at Franklin Square Hospital Center, which has adopted a different county school for this back-to-school project for the past four years. The hospital staff, which selects schools with high-need communities, provided nearly 675 bags for students at the school, and has previously done so for those at Shady Spring, Middlesex and Sandalwood elementaries.

"It's important to connect with the community," said Larry Strassner, the chief nursing officer, who added that the nurses take on different outreach efforts throughout the year with that goal.

"This donation has just lifted the weight of the world off of many parents' heads," said Harry Walker, the Sandy Plains principal. "The beginning of school is always a time of excitement ... but it's also a very stressful time for our families."

For parents, it means new clothes, shoes and doctor visits - in addition to school supplies, Walker said. And for families with several children, the process can be even more of a strain.

Parents agreed, expressing gratitude for being saved from the usual running from one store to another for just the right markers and notebooks.

"It saves me a lot of money, especially with all my kids," said West, who has five children. "It just makes it a lot easier."

Like many of her colleagues, second-grade teacher Sarah Lauer had her classroom decorated and ready to go, down to her students' notebooks open on their desks, their names written inside, along with a new pencil and colorful eraser.

"You're ready for it to begin ... to start something new," said Lauer, who is Casey's teacher. "This is the prequel. Can't wait for Monday."

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