First day of classes goes quietly at area schools Schmoke, Amprey welcome students


In Baltimore County, an outgoing Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel greeted his students with a call of "Happy New Year!" yesterday, while in Baltimore, incoming Superintendent Walter G. Amprey went from classroom to classroom and from school to school, exhorting students to do their best.

In all, it was a fairly quiet first day of school for thousands of students throughout the metropolitan area.

"It's been one of the quietest first day openings we've had in years," said Jane Doyle, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County schools. "Just the usual phone calls from parents complaining that the bus stop is too far away. All in all, it was a pretty smooth opening."

In Baltimore, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Mr. Amprey and several other city officials visited two high schools, a middle school and three elementary schools. The tour helped impress upon teachers, principals and parents that city officials "are all together to work for the education of our children," Mayor Schmoke said.

Omar Jackson, a fifth-grader at Thomas G. Hayes Elementary School, said he was more than ready for another year of reading, writing and arithmetic.

"I'm hoping to get my education again this year and graduate to the next grade," said young Jackson, who wants to be a doctor and a lawyer.

He and Tonya McCarter, a fifth-grader who wants to be an interpreter, welcomed the mayor's entourage to their school.

At Hampstead Hill Middle School, in East Baltimore, where last school year neighbors complained about students being unruly after school, the first day of school was without incident, school officials said.

At Parole Elementary school in Annapolis, the staff greeted the new students by dressing in blue knit shirts emblazoned with the school logo and white trousers or skirts.

"I thought we'd have a little school spirit and get off with a good positive attitude," said Charles Bowers, Parole's principal. "And it was one of the smoothest openings we've ever had. With us all in uniform, parents knew who to go to if they had a question."

The uniforms were so well-received that teachers have been asking for more shirts, Mr. Bowers said.

Teachers in Howard County were making their presence felt yesterday, though not by wearing uniforms. The county's teachers are refusing to participate in voluntary, after-school activities because their negotiated pay raises were canceled to balance the county budget.

Instead of back-to-school night, a traditional event when parents meet with teachers in their classrooms, many schools are scheduling parent-teacher meetings for the morning of Oct. 8. The date had been set aside for staff development.

Every year, teachers "give up their nights to come back to school for the parents," said James R. Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association, which represents teachers in collective bargaining with the county. "We're asking the parents to give up some of their time now in the daytime, and many of them are responding."

The teachers' protest also will affect other activities such as chaperoning dances, sponsoring clubs and attending meetings after the workday. Consequently, schools are looking to parents to fill in some of the expected gaps.

"If they can't find a faculty sponsor [for a club or activity], they're going to try and get the parents," said school spokeswoman Patti P. Caplan. "We'll try to offer everything that we did in the past, without interruption."

Harford, Carroll and Baltimore counties also had smooth opening days.

In Harford County it was "as if we hadn't had an interruption in school," said school spokesman Albert F. Seymour. "It seemed as if they didn't have three months off."

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