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News Maryland Anne Arundel County Severna Park

Excitement for teachers, students on first day of school in Arundel

There was plenty of excitement and jitters evident in the eyes of children as they attended the first day of school Monday.

But Mamie J. Perkins, Anne Arundel County's interim schools superintendent, saw evidence of something else in some young students' eyes.

"Are you still a little sleepy?" she asked students at Jones Elementary School at Severna Park, and a few sheepishly nodded yes.

In several Jones classrooms, Perkins encouraged kids to go to bed early to get a strong start on day two Tuesday.

For the 350 students at Jones and hundreds of thousands more across the Baltimore region, Monday marked the end of summer and the start of another school year.

In Anne Arundel, school started Monday for students in first through fifth, sixth and ninth grades. Everyone else goes back Tuesday, except for preschoolers and kindergartners, who have a staggered start to the year.

Jack McAdory used his cell phone to snap photos of daughters Brooke and Danika on the steps of Jones Elementary as students gathered before the 8:50 a.m. start of school.

McAdory beamed with pride as Brooke, a 9-year-old fourth-grader, and Danika, a 6-year-old first-grader, embarked on another year of learning.

"It's awesome," he said. "They're wonderful girls."

Both students said they were looking forward to making new friends. "We wanted to come back," Brooke said.

Cherie Mann had three kids starting the school year at Jones: 10-year-old Alexander in the fifth grade, 8-year-old Natalie in the third grade and 6-year-old Penelope in the first grade.

"They've been excited for a week now," Mann said.

Penelope declared art as her favorite subject, while Natalie said recess was the best part of school. Alexander was too busy with friends to talk to a reporter.

Mann, who lives just a block away from the school, said her family loves the close-knit community at Jones.

"Everybody knows everybody … Everybody is so giving. It's a nice place to be," she said.

It's also one of the top-performing schools in Anne Arundel as well as the state, with nearly all students scoring "proficient" or "advanced" on the Maryland School Assessments.

At Jones, teachers eased their students into the first day of school with introductions and get-to-know-you activities.

In Nikki Baker's second-grade class, students sat cross-legged on a brightly-colored rug in the front of the classroom and took turns greeting each other and sharing about themselves. Though a few took a "pass" and decided not to share, others cheerfully announced their love of "all things animals," recounted spills from playgrounds and scooters over the summer and declared that chicken was their favorite food. Two kids professed a passion for kittens.

Baker told her students the morning greeting would be a regular activity. "You can learn about your friends, and also it's nice to say hello to your friends, isn't it?" she said.

Perkins, who recently began a one-year stint as Anne Arundel's superintendent, gushed over the kids on her first of what will be 21 visits to schools this week and next.

Perkins was hired this summer after the previous superintendent, Kevin Maxwell, left for Prince George's County. Anne Arundel's school board recently formed a committee to work on finding a permanent replacement.

Though she's worked in education for 40 years, Perkins admitted that she still gets butterflies on the first day of school. But not for herself – for the teachers and students.

"I get butterflies for them today as they open up their new things," Perkins said. "They have such hope and promise in their eyes as they anticipate a great school year, and that's what I hope for them as well."

pwood@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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