- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

The freedom of summer gave way to the rigors of school for 131,000 students who returned to classes yesterday in Prince George's County, Md.
Teachers and administrators registered an ever-increasing number of children, set out rules for the coming year and introduced lessons while shrugging off glitches that ranged from flooding to a lost tooth.
In the week before school began, school officials had to cope with shortages of bus drivers and teachers, unfinished construction work and undelivered equipment.
While not all of the problems were solved, the overall assessment was that Day 1 went well, including the opening of the first new high school in the county in 25 years.
William Jarmon was thrilled to start his first day as vice principal of Carrollton Elementary in New Carrollton.
"I feel like I am a new student," he said, directing a line of kindergartners with fingers raised to their lips to their lunch tables. "I am still feeling my way around but the staff here has welcomed me with open arms."
Principal Rise Gaines said the first day went smoothly.
"The buses all got here on time, and things went well," she said. "The summer went so fast, but then, I missed the children."
The school system, which last week said it was short 100 bus drivers, managed to get about 100,000 children to school and only had to double up two runs out of 1,096, said Anthony Liberatore, associate superintendent for student services.
"It was a great opening," he said. "We are hiring drivers as fast as we can. We will do whatever it takes."
Mr. Liberatore was able to use substitute drivers to fill in the gaps. He still needs to fill about 100 positions.
Mrs. Gaines said she was lucky, that most of her teaching staff returned from last year but enrollment already had risen.
An influx of children was a concern across the county.
"We had so many kids, we had to create another first-grade class," said Glassmanor Elementary Principal Linda Waples. "And kids are still registering. We don't know how many we will end up with."
Despite logistical problems, most teachers and students said they were glad to be back.
In Yvonne Brown's third grade at Glassmanor in Oxon Hill, children helped make up the rules of the classroom. Always stay on task, said one. Always raise your hand to talk, said another.
And if they follow the rules, they earn money play money, that is.
"It teaches them how to handle money and use mental math," said Ms. Brown. "They get $5 for just being on time. And they can buy stuff from our school store with what they earn."
While the children promised to follow the rules, they were disappointed when class ended at not being given any homework.
"I want math homework," one girl complained.
"Me, too," piped in a classmate.
Ms. Brown rushed to comply.
In a nearby room, fourth-graders in Kim Cherry's class reflected on what they liked most of their first day of school.
"Writing our essay on the rules and consequences of what we do," said Ebony.
"Painting," Norman offered.
"Getting to know one another," said Cynthia.
"The math worksheet," said Marquette. Fifth-grader Jasmine Carter, 9, agreed that school was "better than I thought."
"I liked the math, the rules and my best friend," she said.
Her little sister, Daisha, 4, started kindergarten yesterday. "I was nervous for her," said her mother, Lisa Carter. "She usually cries, but she was a big girl today." Daisha smiled when asked about her day. "It was fun. I played outside," she said. When asked if she wanted to come back, her eyes lit up as she nodded.
"We usually have to run kids out of here," Mrs. Waples said. "They never want to leave."
At Hyattsville's newly rebuilt Northwestern High School, 2,000 students reveled in the beautiful new building while trying to find their way around the halls of the huge building on Adelphi Road.
"It's so big," said Kristin Shelton, 15, who started 11th grade. "I think it's beautiful, but I did get lost."
Most of the school's staff knew their way around already. After all, they have been at the building almost around the clock for the past six days trying to get it ready.
"It was a Herculean effort," said Darla Heinz, a German teacher. "The staff from the principal down has worked so hard, at warp speeds, moving things around, trying to get the school ready.
"Ideally, we would have had a couple more days," she added. "Their efforts showed that we should have postponed school."
A petition was presented Friday to Principal William Ritter by teachers asking the administration to delay the first day of classes.
Still, most rooms had their desks, chair and computers. Boxes were moved or unpacked. And while construction crews continued to work on stairs and the entrance road and the old school next door, the students arrived and everything went fine, said one obviously weary teacher.
"It's going to take a few more months to get things settled," she said, declining to give her name. "But for the most part, everything went well and everyone is enjoying our new school."
Flooding at the new Northwestern from a thunderstorm that rolled through the night before was one of the few crises on the first day of school unless a lost tooth counts.
Rashad, a second-grader at Glassmanor, rushed to the bathroom to get a paper towel and came back with a small tooth in his hand.
"See," he said as he displayed it to his classmates in his own version of show-and-tell.

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