- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

There were lots of hugs from teachers, giggles shared among girlfriends, and parents whispering "Good luck. Have a good day" to their children yesterday at R.H. Terrell Junior High School in Northwest as the District's first day of school got under way.
More than 68,000 D.C. students returned to classrooms on a bright, sunny day with temperatures in the 90s. But more than 5,000 students could not join in the first-day excitement. They were not allowed to attend classes yesterday because their inoculation status was not clear.
Public school officials said 5,535 students have yet to be immunized or prove they have already had all their shots. Officials said many of them are older students who have had their initial shots but had failed to get the required boosters.
During an 8:30 a.m. assembly, Terrell Principal Francis S. Nicol, addressed the students and their parents in the school's first-floor auditorium. He talked about the great expectations both he and the faculty have for students this year.
"It is with great pride and optimism that I welcome you to R.H. Terrell's second year as a Transformation School. We have put in place systems, policies and procedures to ensure the success of every child in the school. The staff, including the administrative team, is committed to the achievement of every one of our students," Mr. Nicol said.
After the hourlong assembly, students formed lines and were escorted to classrooms by their homeroom teachers. Students who attend the junior high school are now required to wear uniforms. The young men sported white oxford or polo shirts with khaki trousers and belts, while young ladies wore pleated khaki skirts and white blouses with Peter Pan collars and red ties. To show a sense of camaraderie, Terrell teachers put on their khaki and white outfits, too. Mr. Nicol said uniforms make all the difference.
"It reduces a lot of problems. Students used to come to school with clothes on their minds. Now, we have them focused on learning. We have initiated new programs: There will be a test-taking period at the end of the first period every day [to review math and reading skills], and this year we will have an after-school tutorial from 3:15 p.m. until 4 p.m. for math and reading and a tutorial on Saturdays," Mr. Nicol said.
The principal said he's seen an improvement in the climate of the school students' self-esteem has been raised, and he and his teachers are working to improve test scores.
"Parents are beginning to understand what we are doing here at Terrell. They see that we are committed to the students and our staff is dedicated. I'm very optimistic this school year we will turn everything around," Mr. Nicol said, smiling.
The principal's wasn't the only beaming face at school yesterday. Parents and guardians also wore smiles. Patricia Weaver and Eugene Martin accompanied their niece, Teresha Smith, a seventh grader, to her new school.
Ms. Weaver said she didn't think the first day of school could move along so well. "It went along very smoothly. I thought it would be a little more hectic, but it wasn't. Registration went really well, with the help of computers. Once the student's name is put into the computer, the information appears on the screen. The [class] schedule even appears on the screen," Ms. Weaver said.
She's even more impressed with the school's dress code.
"I really like the uniforms. It calms down rivalry among students. There's far less chaos when students wear uniforms," she said.
Mr. Martin agreed. He said there are some schools that do not adhere to the mandatory uniform dress code. He's pleased to see Terrell administrators mean business.
"I'm a firm believer that children must start early when it comes to discipline and order. I'm impressed with this staff," Mr. Martin said.
For Derrick Warren, an eighth grader at Terrell coming back to school and seeing his friends and teachers was a bright spot. Summer vacation was great. He visited Six Flags and got to see the Redskins play. But, now it's time to get down to the business of pre-algebra.
"It's just good be to back at school make new friends and see my teachers. At first, the uniforms and I didn't get along, but I've learned to appreciate them," he said.
Like Derrick, Alexandria Williams, 13, looked forward to returning to her alma mater. She said she's got a lot to do this school year. This summer she read 10 books and attended a camp that focused on English and the arts.
"I'm planning to join Young Ladies of Elegance, a group for young ladies coordinated by Miss Ruby Johnson. And I'm going to join the Foreign Club, where you can learn different languages, and I'm going to join the Yearbook Committee," the eighth grader said. Alexandria said she plans to buckle down and study extra hard for the SAT. She wants score well on the test and earn a college scholarship.
"Yes, I'm definitely looking forward to this school year," she said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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