More than 37,000 students are expected to stream through the doors of Harford County's 49 schools Tuesday, about 1,200 more students than were registered last September, officials estimate.
"If we get the number of kids we're expecting, there will be slightly larger classes," said schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison. "You plan and you have registrations, so you hope you have a pretty good handle, but always on that first day, [new] kids show up." The exact number of students expected is 37,239.
Teachers and administrators at all Harford schools have been meeting, planning and putting the finishing touches on their classrooms in preparation for the influx of students, whatever the number.
Though the first official day back for teachers was Monday, many worked over the summer to get ready.
And most schools have held orientations and preschool open houses for students and parents in the last week to smooth the transitions between grades or schools.
"The first day should be fun," said Aberdeen Middle School Principal Edwin C. Saunders, though "there is just a lot of natural tension that comes with it. Mr. Saunders is kicking off his first full year as principal at Aberdeen Middle after replacing the former principal in the middle of last school year.
Fallston Middle School Principal F. Thomas Pomilla is looking forward to the year, too. "Everybody is just enthusiastic and ready to get started," he said. Workers were still installing lockers at the end of last week to give the school's 40 additional students a place to stash their books.
Harford students returning to school will face a few changes in policies and schedules.
One change is the stricter attendance policy, enacted to help Harford schools meet state standards for school performance.
This year, students will be allowed only five excused days off from school for family vacations. And parents will have to request the days off from the principal, who could deny the request for academic or attendance reasons.
A high school student who misses five days of a semester course or six days in a yearlong course, in unexcused absences, would not get credit for that course. The previous limits were 15 and 24 unexcused absences, respectively.
In a scheduling change, high school graduation dates have shifted so only one school, John Archer School, will graduate on a Friday next year.
The county's nine comprehensive high schools will graduate Tuesday through Thursday, May 28 to 30.
A day off for students scheduled for March 11 may move to March 4 to coincide with a day off for primary elections March 5. School administrators will ask the school board to change the staff development day.
And in a move to make parents and others who attend school board meetings more comfortable, the board will meet in the auditorium at C. Milton Wright High School starting with its Oct. 9 meeting. The board has met in the cafeteria of Southampton Middle School for the past year, but poor acoustics and uncomfortable seats led them to find a new location.
Elementary students will be in school from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Middle-school students, except those at North Harford, will meet from 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
County high schools and North Harford Middle will start their days at 7:45 a.m. and end at 2:15 p.m.
For Harford County back-to-school information, call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6179.
Or, individual schools should be able to answer most last-minute questions Tuesday, so call them if you have a question.
Parents can call Donald R. Morrison, the school spokesman, at 838-7300 with problems that can't be resolved at the school level.
In case of urgent problems with buses, parents can call the school system's transportation department at 638-4092.
1995-1996 HARFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS CALENDAR
Sept. 5 -- First day of school.
Oct. 9 -- School closed; staff development day.
Oct. 18 -- Elementary schools close early at 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 21, 24 -- Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Tests given (PSAT).
Oct. 25 -- Schools closed; teachers' convention.
Nov. 6 -- School closed; in-service and conference day.
Nov. 9 -- Parent conferences for kindergarten parents.
Nov. 23 to 24 -- Thanksgiving; schools and offices closed.
Jov. 27 -- Report cards distributed in middle and high schools.
Nov. 29 -- Elementary schools close early at 12:30 p.m.
Dec. 25 to 29 -- Schools closed; midyear holidays.
Jan. 1, 1996 -- New Year's Day; schools closed.
Jan. 15 -- Schools closed; Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
Jan. 23 to 26 -- Final examinations for semester.
Jan. 24 -- Elementary schools close early at 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 -- Report cards distributed at all schools.
Feb. 19 -- Schools closed; Washington's/Lincoln's birthdays.
March 4 -- Schools closed; staff development day.
March 5 -- Schools closed; primary election.
March 27 -- Elementary schools open two hours late.
April 4 -- Schools closed; staff development day.
April 4-8 -- Spring vacation: schools closed for students.
April 5 -- Good Friday; schools and offices closed.
April 24 -- Elementary schools open two hours late.
April 26 -- Report cards distributed at all schools.
May 27 -- Memorial Day; schools and offices closed.
May 28 -- Commencement for Edgewood, Fallston and Harford Technical high schools.
May 29 -- Commencement for Bel Air, Havre de Grace and North Harford high schools.
May 30 -- Commencement for Aberdeen, C. Milton Wright and Joppatowne high schools.
May 31 -- Commencement for John Archer School.
June 5 -- Elementary schools open two hours late.
June 13 -- Last day of school.