Candy, costumed witches and goblins, and even the word Halloween have been missing from many of the Howard County schools' celebrations this past week.

The goons, goblins, witches and devils that have long been associated with Halloween celebrations are slowly becoming less commonplace. Instead, schools are following the suggestions of central office administrators and more kids are coming to school in doctor's scrubs and tool belts for career days or dressed as popular storybook characters.

Schools have significantly reduced the amount of celebration associated with Halloween altogether, according to schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "They've cut back on time," she said.

Many of the schools are even distancing themselves from the word Halloween.

At Veterans Elementary, students participated in the annual Children's Celebration, which is essentially an old-fashioned Halloween celebration without the name, according to Principal Bob Bruce.

"There are all sorts of concerns using the word Halloween because of the origination of the holiday," Bruce said, alluding to its religious origins.

Students still dress in costumes, participate in a parade and have parties in their classrooms, but there are subtle differences. In addition to dropping the name Halloween, classroom parties consist of mostly healthy snacks.

"If they wanted to have one cupcake item, that was fine," Bruce said. "But we are not having every parent bringing in cupcakes for each kid. We've seen more vegetables and dip, and more healthier and snackable items."

All the changes have virtually gone unnoticed by the students, according to Bruce.

"There really is no difference in the way that they act or respond to it," Bruce said. "They find it to be fun."

At Running Brook Elementary, students participated in a "Dress for Success" day. Students were encouraged to dress as what they want to be when they grow up. In the afternoon, students were able to show off their outfits during a parade. Classrooms had smaller parties for students, according to Principal Troy Todd.

The parade was the culmination of a slew of activities associated with "Career Month" at the school. Parents, community members and business partners visited the school to share their professions with students.

At Talbott Springs Elementary, students participated in a Parade of Words, where staff suggested storybook characters that students could dress up as, according to Principal Nancy Thompson. Teachers worked with students to decide on a word that fit their costume. Each grade selected a word category such as nouns, adjectives, verbs or adverbs, according to Thompson. For example, Thompson said she was going to dress as Hermione Granger from the "Harry Potter" book series to represent the adjective "intellectual."

At Jeffers Hill Elementary, the school has a Cultural Awareness Day and Fall Festival.

"This enables us to plan an educational and inclusive day for all of our students," said Assistant Principal Cathleen Cavanaugh Lopez. "It is our feeling as a staff that when we have over 10 percent of our population that need to leave the classroom for an alternate activity, then we are not promoting an inclusive, culturally responsive environment."

The school's PTA was scheduled to host an evening event during which students were allowed to participate in a parade with their Halloween costumes, according to Cavanaugh Lopez.

At Laurel Woods Elementary, the school held a Parade of Pumpkins. There, teachers decorated 40 pumpkins that look "awesome," according to Principal Peggy Dumler.

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