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For freshmen, first day at Towson High means navigating the unfamiliar

For freshmen at Towson High, the difficulty of the first day of school is compounded by the challenge of navigating the building, especially with its staircases leading to certain hallways and not others.

It's been hard trying to find all my classes, and everyone's basically really bigger than me," said Britton Tait, 13, of Phoenix, during a fifth-period gym class. "It's very big, so it's hard to find my way — I got lost trying to find my way."

But despite her difficulty getting around, Britton, a student in the school's Law and Public Policy Magnet Program, at least found a familiar face from Ridgely Middle, where she was last year.

Some students had time during gym classes to comment on the first day of school as lockers were assigned and classmates bought locks.

Sophomore Leslie Plano, 14, of Lutherville, was quick with advice for Britton. Britton said she was confused when the teacher said gym was during period five. Britton said she thought it was period seven.

Leslie explained the difference between periods and "mods" — 25-minute blocks that accommodate lunch waves in the middle of the day.

"Ten mods, seven periods," Leslie told Britton. "I'll explain later."

Others were having an easier time with the first day at a new school. This, in part because some had already spent time there this summer.

Freshman Trent McNairy, 15, of Towson, has old friends and his football teammates for a sense of the familiar. But Trent said he's also cognizant of those who are new at the school from either different feeder schools or from other parts of the county for the magnet program.

"I know a lot of people from being around here but some people don't know anyone," Trent said. "I feel bad because it's the first day. They wouldn't know anyone unless they introduce themselves."

To students even one year older, the first day of school means something completely different than their freshmen peers — and is made easier by the fact that teachers are familiar with them, and they are familiar with each other.

As locker assignments continued, sophomores Akil Richardson, 14, of Towson; Ben Felps, 15, of Owings Mills; and Nick Healy, 15, of Lutherville, sat on the bleachers, each known to one another from classes last year.

They acknowledged that some things — testing schedules, the new curriculum and new Principal Charlene DiMino — had changed since they left in June for the summer, but this first day was hardly as foreign as last August when the three were freshmen.

"You know people," Ben said. "I wasn't nervous at all today."

"It's just like coming back to an old school," Ariana Orlando, 15, said. "It's just funny seeing all the freshmen trying to find their way around the school."

Ariana said that by the end of the week, new students would likely have their class schedule and routine down. But until then, they might end up relying on the goodwill of others to get where they're going.

Nick Healy, a 15-year-old sophomore from Lutherville, said he saw a freshman girl in a panic that morning in the hallway and asked if she needed help.

"She couldn't find a classroom, and it was right behind her," he said. "She must have said, 'Thank you,' seven times."

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