At 4 p.m. yesterday, 8-year-old Joanna Gilford stepped off the school bus and left a trail of dust in the driveway as she ran in to tell her mother about the landmark first day of third grade at Taneytown Elementary.
"She learned how to write 'it' in cursive," said her mother, Amy Gilford. In second grade, Joanna and other children start getting really curious about cursive, but teachers discourage them from trying until third grade, lest they learn the wrong way and have to unlearn it later.
"She wrote half a page of it's today. She came right in the door and showed me how she did it," Gilford said. "I'm just really tickled about this. This is real big-girl stuff."
Yesterday brought just the kind of home-from-school scene Gilford was hoping for. She headed off a phone call that came just as her children's bus was driving up to her home outside Taneytown.
"My kids are just about to step off the bus, and I want to be off the phone. I want to hear those first words," she said to the caller.
Her son Jimmy, in second grade, said his favorite part of the day was taking a test with a lot of numbers.
"I was a little surprised by that," Gilford said. "He said it took all afternoon -- I'm sure not. And he was happy because he was sitting next to his friend Chad.
"I was happy [this morning] because the bus did not pass them by. Last year it just went right by them."
The first day of school in Carroll County brought 25,276 students to the five high schools, seven middle schools, 19 elementaries and two specialty schools, said Edwin Davis, director of pupil services.
Projections are that enrollment will be well over 26,000 this year, as more students are accounted for between now and Sept. 30. That day's enrollment is the one considered official.
The first day enrollment this year is 565 students more than the same time last year. Between now and the end of September, principals will know the whereabouts of 538 students who were expected yesterday but did not arrive.
"They could be living in Montana, they could be in Ocean City," Davis said.
Many students who were not expected will show up in the next week. And several -- although Davis had no figures yesterday -- may have excused absences for participating in the Maryland State Fair this week in Timonium.
The only sure thing about yesterday's enrollment figures is that they will change, officials said.
Although no new schools opened this fall, a middle school is scheduled to open in January. Until then, Oklahoma Road Middle School students will remain part of Sykesville Middle School.
Three more high schools converted yesterday to a four-period day, as North Carroll High School did in the 1993-1994 school year.
"People seem to be less frantic," said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education.
Under this schedule, students have four 90-minute periods during the day, and courses last one semester. In January, they will switch to a different four courses.
North Carroll has had success with the change, reporting the highest attendance rate in the county, and more honor roll students and fewer failures than before the change.
This year, Westminster, South Carroll, and Francis Scott Key high schools all have the change.
Liberty High School staff members are exploring a change in the schedule, but are at least a year away from making a change, said Assistant Principal Gayle McAdams.
In the elementary schools, it was a smooth day, said Dorothy hTC "Dottie" Mangle, director of elementary education, with several bright spots.
She learned yesterday that four first-year teachers at Eldersburg Elementary School this year are also alumni of that school.
And at Piney Ridge Elementary School in the morning, Mangle noticed a multicolored greeting in chalk on the front sidewalk that said, "Happy Birthday Samantha."
"I had just assumed it was a mother who did it, but the principal told me it was a teacher," Mangle said. "That little girl, that must have made her day."
Pub Date: 8/27/96