- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2013

More than 80,000 students headed back to school in the District on Monday, but it was a bumpy start for a few of them after two early morning school bus accidents.

No one was seriously injured in the accidents, but nine students, a school bus driver and a school aide were evaluated after reporting minor injuries, according to the D.C. fire department. A spokeswoman for D.C. Public Schools said the buses involved were headed to charter schools, but she was unable to confirm which schools.

Officials, including D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson and Mayor Vincent C. Gray, kicked off the school year by visiting a number of schools Monday, dropping by classrooms throughout the day to greet students and administrators.

Mr. Gray said he was impressed with the energy and optimism he saw in the students he met — specifically noting the commitment among students at Sela Public Charter School, the District’s first Hebrew-language immersion school, which opened this year in Northeast.

“It’s interesting to talk to kids who on the first day of school are already learning Hebrew,” Mr. Gray said.

Classes also started Monday in Montgomery County. Prince George’s County schools opened last week, and classes in Northern Virginia don’t begin until after Labor Day.

At the DC Scholars Public Charter School in Southeast, Mr. Gray and an entourage of administrators toured several classrooms, listening to a lesson in a fourth-grade classroom on great white sharks and watching an orderly group of kindergartners pass by the adults in a hallway to take sips from a water fountain.

“To go to school after school and see them engaging like it’s the second week and not the first day, it’s tremendously uplifting,” Mr. Gray said.

Thirteen public schools were closed at the end of last school year, but major rehabilitation was completed at several others. Adding to the excitement of the first day back to school were the major renovations completed at seven schools — including a $100 million upgrade to Cardozo Senior High School in Northwest and the opening of the new Dunbar Senior High School in Northwest.

But as students arrived for their first day at the $122 million Dunbar facility, police were still investigating a burglary there that occurred over the weekend.

A window was smashed and the school was entered between 11 p.m. Friday and 2 a.m. Saturday. Three Dell computers were stolen, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. No description was available of the suspects, police said.

Police were also still investigating the two school bus accidents.

A multiple-vehicle collision involving a bus occurred around 9 a.m. at the intersection of Pierce and North Capitol streets in Northeast, according police and fire officials. A fire department spokesman said three students were evaluated at the scene.

Police could not provide more details of the incident Monday or say how many students were on board the bus at the time.

A second collision between a bus and another vehicle was reported around 9:15 a.m. at 14th and Monroe streets in Northeast. Six students, the driver and a student aide had minor injuries checked out by emergency workers at the scene, said Tim Wilson, spokesman for the fire and emergency services department.

Approximately 45,000 students attend the District’s public schools and another 35,000 attend charter schools. Over the summer, administrators cheered all students’ achievements — noting that standardized test scores for D.C. public and charter schools are the highest they have been in six years. The D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education released the 2013 Comprehensive Assessment System scores, showing that 48.4 percent of public school students were proficient in math and reading while 55.8 percent of charter school students were at a proficiency level.

“After a school year where we saw unprecedented growth and achievement, I am thrilled to start what I am convinced will be our best school year yet,” Ms. Henderson said in a statement. “We know what works in our schools, we’re growing what has been successful and we’re creating new programs to strengthen areas that need attention.”

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