- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

Students in the District and in Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties are zipping up their backpacks, packing their lunchboxes and sharpening their pencils as they prepare to attend the first day of the school today.

An estimated 62,806 students in the District will be greeted by new security at most schools. The children also will face new academic and testing standards, as the District institutes an academic overhaul aimed at improving test scores.

“We have new standards that are being implemented that are based on Massachusetts standards,” said Leonie Campbell, a city schools spokeswoman. “They are in mathematics and language arts and are more rigorous than in the past. Everything is more in line with the textbooks that we use.”

School officials also anticipate a smoother opening than last year, when about 900 students arrived at Eastern High School and found no schedules. D.C. schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey fired the principal and two other staffers.

Children also will see new security guards at their schools.

A team of 350 security guards and 99 armed school resource officers from the Metropolitan Police Department will be stationed at city schools. The majority of officers will be at high schools and some middle schools.

This year, D.C. police will oversee the security force. Watkins Security Agency of D.C. had had a security contract with the city schools since 2003. That contract expired last month.

This year, police will use officers obtained through a two-year, $30.1 million contract with Hawk One Security Inc.

The official takeover took effect July 1, after the D.C. Council handed the job to the police partly in response to a February 2004 fatal shooting at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast.

The school system has 167 schools and had about 700 teacher openings. School officials have said that about 570 of those openings have been filled.

In Maryland, most of the estimated 74,000 students in Anne Arundel County also will begin the school year today. The district, which has 120 schools and more than 5,000 teachers, has recently finished renovations on eight of its schools.

The eight schools, including Arundel High School in Gambrills, Mayo Elementary in Annapolis and George Cromwell Elementary in the Ferndale area, will open Wednesday because of delays in construction.

Schools in Montgomery County will open today for about 140,000 students, some of whom will attend classes in one of the district’s two new schools. The new schools were built to accommodate the growing student population.

Three of the county’s middle schools — Loiederman Middle School and Argyle Middle School, both in Silver Spring, and Parkland Middle School in Rockville — will participate in the county’s new middle-school magnet program.

The program is part of a $7.2 million federal grant to build schools specializing in specific areas of study. Loiederman will focus on creative and performing arts, Parkland on aerospace technology and Argyle on information technology.

“We wanted to increase the rigor of our middle schools, and a magnet-type program helps do that,” said Brian Edwards, a spokesman for Montgomery County schools. “It was enormously popular. We had 240 spots in these schools, and more than 500 children applied.”

The county plans to open five more schools at the beginning of the 2006-07 school year, including Clarksburg High School.

Montgomery County schools spend about $12,100 on each student and are consistently known for good student test scores and graduation and attendance rates.

The county school system recently attracted national attention for its proposed new sex-education curriculum, which eventually was taken to court by opponents and was blocked by a federal judge who ruled it presented “only one view” on homosexuality.

Most schools in other counties and cities in Maryland are expected to open today. Most schools in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia will open Sept. 6.

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