After a long break, children head back to school

February 17, 2010|By Nicole Fuller | nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Kwesi Stevenson left his house in West Baltimore a full hour before school began Wednesday morning, eager after the prolonged snow-induced vacation to get back to 10th-grade math and accounting.

He braved the slippery sidewalks. (Stevenson suggested the city spread more salt.) He sometimes walked in the street, he said, careful to look over his shoulder from time to time so the cars whizzing by would be sure to see him. Then he boarded a more packed-than-usual light rail car with classmate Kali Ashlock, making it to the National Academy Foundation school on the city's east side just in time for the school's 10 a.m. start.

"It was hard," said Stevenson, 15. "The snow is everywhere. I had to walk in the street. But I was so tired of being in the house. When they said school was on, I was like, 'Yes! Finally!'"

Schools across the region reopened Wednesday for the first time since a blizzard and subsequent snow storm dropped more than 3 feet of snow almost two weeks ago, shutting down governments and schools across the Mid-Atlantic. Baltimore City schools and the surrounding suburbs instituted a two-hour delay, which runs through the remainder of the week, in an effort to avoid the chaos of rush hour and ease the commute for both students and teachers.

School systems in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties reported smooth reopenings. The only school that did not open as planned was Deal Elementary in Anne Arundel. The school's electricity was not working and BGE was working to fix the problem, said Bob Mosier, a spokesman for Anne Arundel schools, who added that several of the system's other schools reported an increase in students being driven to school.

Karen Webber-Ndour, principal at National Academy Foundation, said she and other administrators were "nervous" about students having to walk in the street to get to school, but that she was pleasantly surprised at the success of the school's reopening.

"Things went shockingly well," said Webber-Ndour, who said some of the school's 400 students began trickling in as early as 8 a.m. "The adults had bigger problems with traffic. But the children came back on time and they're happy to be here."

At Running Brook Elementary School in Columbia, Principal Troy Todd spent the morning giving high-fives to students and greeting parents.

"I'm sure everyone was struck with a little cabin fever," said Todd, who spent the early hours of the morning driving around the school's surrounding neighborhoods to make sure it was safe for students to return. "It almost felt like the beginning of the school year when you haven't seen everybody."

Bryan Lewis, a fourth-grader at Running Brook, wasn't completely sold on returning to school.

"I'm excited to go back home today," he said, adding that he liked having all the time off from school to snowboard and have snowball fights.

Mostly though, students were excited for school.

Darrian Davis, a ninth-grader at the National Academy Foundation, said he made a whopping $300 with his brothers shoveling sidewalks and cleaning off cars. He said he bought new sneakers, and he pulled a gleaming new Smartphone from his pocket to show a visitor, another purchase from his snow earnings.

Still, he wanted to come back. "I missed my classmates," said Davis, 14.

Wendy Parker-Robinson, who teaches culinary arts and hospitality at the school, said she kept in contact with students during the break.

"All the students have my cell phone number, so I got many, many texts and calls saying, 'What are you doing?'"

In Baltimore County, the line of cars for drop-off at Wellwood International Elementary School in Pikesville was a little longer than usual. More parents brought their children to school, dodging the mounds of snow by walking along the street. And the students found their principal, Tricia Rueter, greeting them on the street instead of in her usual position at the front door. But the school seemed to settle into the normal routine just as a few flakes began to fall outside.

Inside a fifth-grade classroom, children told happy stories, explaining how they experienced the storm with all their senses and the joy of unexpectedly long days of play in the snow.

"It was a damp, moist snow. You could hear the snow drifting," said fifth-grader Aadish Balkiwal.

They relayed tales of building snow forts and igloos, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate. One fifth-grader shared her amazement at being unable to see anything but snow when she sat in a big hole she had dug. Another talked of the imagination that sometimes comes from boredom. "We were watching the Olympics and I was kind of bored, so I put on five pairs of socks and skated around the kitchen," said Shouran Farasat.

The return after so long seemed strange to some. "I feel like it is the first day of school all over again," said Ori Rattner.

For others it was hard to get back into a routine. "I feel tired. I don't want to go to school," said Abigail Law.

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