Bryant Woods Elementary School third-grader Ramal West, who recently moved to Columbia from Frederick, wasn't about to let Hurricane Irene dampen his spirits on the first day of school.

"The hurricane was big, but now school's ready; everybody has brand-new clothes. I'm happy," said Ramal, who joined other Howard County students beginning the school year on Tuesday, one day later than scheduled because of power outages and other damage left in Irene's wake.

However, 10 county schools did not have power and were not open. As of 5 p.m., three remained without power: Atholton and Glenelg high schools and Triadelphia Ridge Elementary.

Schools in Baltimore City and in Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties will open Wednesday, but dozens were still without power and will remain closed.

"We worked very closely with the school system; they had someone in our emergency operations center the entire time and we worked together to help provide them information to make decisions about whether to open," said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who visited Bryant Woods after dropping off his children at school Tuesday.

"They opened [Tuesday] with a handful of schools without power; those are tough decisions, and you're not going to make everybody happy," Ulman said. "But I think they made the right decision to get things open and get ready for the new school year."

Howard Superintendent Sydney Cousin, who has announced that he will retire in June, said the school year got off to a good start despite the "unique opening" because of the hurricane.

"I've been going to first days for 41 years," Cousin said, "and each one of these opening days is an exciting time because we're back on our major task of educating students here in Howard County."

Lavern May of Columbia, whose son Jordan began kindergarten Tuesday, said the change in plans meant that she had to stay home Monday, but he was excited about starting. As she spoke, Jordan stood fidgeting beside her, eager to go into class. "He can't wait," she said.

Others wished the break could have lasted a bit longer.

"I didn't want to have school today," said Bryant Woods fourth-grader Jonmarie Stewart, who added that she hopes to do well during the school year.

Jonmarie's mother, Patricia Woods of Columbia, said parents had no problem receiving information about whether their children's school would be open on Tuesday.

Beginning the school year a day late, Woods said, was "a little nerve-racking, but always safety comes first. We were looking forward to kids being back in session, but we wanted the kids to be safe as well."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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