Here's a recap of scenes from around the region that our education team witnessed on the first day of school.
Anne Arundel County, from contributor Susan Gvozdas: Anne Arundel schools had a staggered opening this week. On Monday, they welcomed students in first through sixth and ninth grades, with highschoolers, prekindergartners and kindergartners following Tuesday.
The county's newest school, Seven Oaks Elementary in Severn, opened Tuesday, along with 10 other schools that were delayed a day by construction. Lake Shore Elementary in Pasadena was to open Wednesday.
Baltimore City, from reporter Nicole Fuller: Among the normal group of "lunch ladies" serving up breakfast at Yorkwood Elementary School was an unusual bunch of heavyweights: Schools CEO Andres Alonso, Mayor Sheila Dixon, City Council President StephanieRawlings-Blake and State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick.
Dixon and Alonso snacked on cheese sticks with a group of kindergartners.
"Cheese is good for you," Dixon told the kids. "It's good for your bones."
The group, which included School Board President Brian D. Morris, later toured the building that houses Harlem Park Elementary School, where Principal JoyceAkintilo, showed officials renovated classrooms. Alonso moved to shake the principal's hand, but she offered a more intimate greeting.
"We give hugs here," Akintilo explained. Alonso obliged.
After checking out a renovated dance studio, Dixon remarked that she was on the dance team during her years as a student at Northwestern High School. "I'm ready to go back to school," Dixon said. "Forget all this big people's work."
Baltimore County, from reporter Gina Davis: Baltimore County started the school year with six and a half teaching vacancies, two of which are for instructingJROTC and must be assigned by the military.
The county was expecting 105,330 students and 8,545 teachers.
The smell of new carpet lingered in the air at Crossroads Center in White Marsh as the pack of school officials and community leaders walked the extra-wide hallways of Baltimore County's newest school, which opened its doors yesterday to more than 400 students in a leased office building at a large business park under construction along the White Marsh Boulevard extension in the eastern portion of the county.
The school, which is the district's fifth alternative-education facility,offers intensive reading and math instruction for disruptive students who are failing statewide assessments. The goal is to reduce dropout rates by helping struggling students pass the state exams and enable them to excel in a regular high school.
"We're focused on those students who just need a different kind of opportunity to learn," said the school's principal, Donna Vlachos. "This is the dream of every teacher. … To make sure that children really do have what they need to learn."
At Crossroads, a typical day for students will include two periods of reading, two periods of math, and a period each of science and social studies. Each day also will include a period of personal development, which will include topics such as conflict resolution. Students also will participate in community service.
Carroll County, from reporters Arin Gencer and Laura McCandlish: In Carroll County, the morning started out a bit flat, as the tires on more than 40 school buses parked in unsecured lots were deflated, delaying students' arrivals at several schools. The last vandalized bus was on the road by 8:30 a.m., said James Doolan, the district's director of transportation services.
As the sun climbed into the sky, students could be seen standing in clumps,or sitting solo, as they awaited their first bus rides for the year.
At Westminster's Winters Mill High School, students passed the morning going through typical first-day fare: passing out schedules, testing locker combinations and reviving skills that dulled over the summer. While completing an information sheet in his world history class, senior Devlan Poseno suddenly sat back, put his pen down and flexed his right hand.
"I haven't written anything since last time I was in school," Poseno, 17, said. "This is horrible."
But his mind wasn't worse for wear, as he went on to score a new composition notebook from his teacher, Brianne Carter — a prize for correctly answering a trivia question.
Junior Zauhn Lewis also seemed ready to go, stepping into his advisory class yesterday morning with a bit of spring in his step.
"How can you be excited? It's school," said Travis Coburn, another junior, after observing his classmate's entrance. "I'm just excited to live," replied Lewis, a football player. Senior Megan Shultz expressed similar excitement, albeit for a different reason.
"I'm just looking forward to all the senior events," she said, thinking ahead to crabfeast — and prom. "It's going to be a fun year."
Harford County, from reporters Josh Dombroskie and Madison Park: The highlight of the first day in Harford County was the opening of the Patterson Mill Middle and High School complex, a $70 million facility long anticipated as an important part of the solution to school crowding. Situated on 79 acres between Bel Air andAbingdon , the school opened to about 1,200 students comprising middle school pupils and freshmen and sophomores at the high school level, many of whom transferred from Bel Air High.
The facility boasts an array of amenities — a mass communications lab with a radio station, a TV studio, professional food labs, a child development center. After transferring from the tight quarters at Bel Air High, Chris McGee had an instant appreciation for the spaciousness of the 266,136-square-foot facility.
"It's big," he said. "It's better this way, you get more space to move around in, and it's less cramped. This school is like what most people are looking for."
Howard County, from reporter John-John Williams IV: A year after a problematic computer system prevented class schedules to be sent to students on time, Howard County officials reported a relatively glitch-free first day of school.
"I haven't seen any problems at all," said Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. "That is something of the past. We have overcome that."
Cousin toured seven schools and was joined by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman for half of his visits.
"Kids and teachers are ready to go to work and to enthusiastically approach this school year," Cousin said after he visited a mix of primary and secondary schools. "I always like to look at the high school kids, and then look at kindergartners. The kindergartners come in with enthusiasm and wonder. We want that enthusiasm and wonder to remain as they matriculate through the school system."
More than 48,500 students - an increase of more than 200 from last year – are expected to attend Howard County public schools this year. The newly opened Veterans Elementary inEllicott City has increased the system's number of schools to 72.
"I saw teachers and staff who were eager to go back to work," Cousin said. "I saw exactly what I thought I would see. This is a very good school system with an excellent staff who are committed to working with students and parents to make this a better school system."
Cousin, who is entering his 40th year in education, said he will spend this year focused on decreasing the achievement gap and approving the capital and operating budgets.