- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

Jeff Newby's world history class at Montgomery Blair High School has changed since terrorists hijacked airplanes and rammed them into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
Each school day since Sept. 11, the teacher has spent a good part of his class discussing with students the impact of the horrific events.
"It no longer seems very important if they don't learn the African map. We would like to spend more time talking about what's going on," he said.
At Annandale High School in Fairfax, math teacher Leonard Bumbaca took his students to the school library on the day of the attacks to help them find some news Web sites. Last week, his math classes began with discussions of the terrorism that caused the deaths of thousands of people in New York and Northern Virginia.
"But after 15 minutes, we would go back to working on our math lessons, and students were really relieved for that. There was even room in the rest of the class for bits of humor," he said.
Teachers have reacted instinctively to help children make sense of the horrific events, and have gradually restored normal routines in the classrooms to enable students to find solace in the familiar.
Even so, educators say, schools will continue to feel an impact over the long term.
Area schools have begun to implement changes in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
In the District, extra security officers have been deployed indefinitely at schools close to federal buildings.
Sporting events have been canceled. Fairfax County canceled all field trips, both local and out of state. In the District, two field trips scheduled for this week were canceled.
Smithsonian spokeswoman Mary Combs said 13 schools from around the country had called the IMAX theaters in the National Air and Space Museum and in the National Museum of Natural History this week to cancel reservations through December. Schools say they are worried about the safety of their students, although they agree that the cancellations will affect learning.
"I think right now we don't know if the violence is ending or beginning," said county schools spokesman Paul Regnier.
Schools are also considering long-term changes.
Yesterday, Fairfax County Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech announced initiatives to promote tolerance and understanding in schools, including new lesson plans for all grades. The plans, which are now being written, will help students develop respect and understanding for others, school system sources said.
The D.C. central office has already sent letters to the schools suggesting ways to incorporate the attacks and their aftermath into their curriculums.
"The impact of the attacks is immeasurable," said Wilma Bonner, assistant superintendent of D.C. senior high schools.
"Students will become more vigilant about their surroundings, and parents will be more concerned about their safety," she said.
Mrs. Bonner said children could use a variety of coping situations to learn.
"In science, a child could use [last weeks events] to understand how things move, and about implosion and explosion. They could use it to examine the properties of a structure to see how pulverization happens by watching the building collapse."
Social studies classes, she said, could examine how events affect people's lives.
At the District's Phelps High School last week, the homework assignments were to work on papers relating to the attacks.
On another level, the targeting of certain religious groups after the attacks might compel students to learn more about doctrine, Mrs. Bonner said. "They will understand that the world is very small, and they will see that the concerns of their brothers and sisters across the waters are also our concerns."
At Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax, an advanced-placement government class discussed the effects of the attacks on the country and themselves.
"This is a teaching moment," said Roberto Pamas, principal of Holmes Middle School in Fairfax. He added, however, that the impact of last week's events would continue.
"Our curriculum may change. This has been an additional chapter in our history," he said.
Children's value systems also have been severely shaken by the attacks, said psychology teacher Julie Smerk of Montgomery Blair High School.
"They thought they knew what they believed in, but now they think that is changing. We have had discussions on what we are going to believe in after the attacks."
Educators say students are probing beneath the surface for answers. "There has been a fair amount of questioning about how the United States could get into this position," said Mark Simon, a veteran teacher and chief of the Montgomery County teachers union.
"Huge questions are being asked by students. Even on Friday, when prayer services were televised, a lot of students asked if this is the only way to respond."
Some area schools have felt a more direct impact from the attacks.
In the District, three teachers and three students died on board the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. A teacher from Virginia Run Elementary in Fairfax lost her husband on the same flight. A student from Prince George's County and her family died in the crash. Several children from around the area, including Montgomery and Fairfax counties, are believed to have lost parents.
Schools have reacted with compassion and caution. Children have sent cards, organized blood drives and decorated classrooms with flags and messages for victims.

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