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Washington County students head back to the classroom

August 25, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

For high school junior Matt Amalfitano, the first day of school means preparing to do five hours of schoolwork in two hours.

For senior Andrea Johnson, it's about making the cheerleading team this winter.

For freshman Michael Rivas, it's about surviving Day One.

School started Tuesday for roughly 21,200 students in Washington County Public Schools. Most of the approximately 2,300 high school students were all smiles as they flooded the hallways, but many were restarting the long countdown to summer vacation.

This year, students face tougher graduation requirements and tougher SATs, but students said they're approaching the new school year with optimism.

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Johnson, 17, a student at South Hagerstown High School, said she's excited about her college preparatory classes. She wants to be a psychology major.

Rivas, 14, said his first day was "scary," but he's looking forward to finishing his first year at North Hagerstown High School.

"It's like always being the new kid," he said. "You don't know anybody, you don't have any friends."

As part of the class of '09, Rivas will be among the first students to graduate under new guidelines requiring all students to pass a state test in order to receive a high school diploma. The tests aren't popular with the new freshmen.

"I think the work we do in school and our benchmarks is enough to get our diploma," Rivas said.

North High principal Valerie Novak said the tests were necessary to measure student progress.

The new SAT is another concern. The revised test has an added essay section, algebra II questions and short reading passages. While they are worried about doing well on the tests, juniors and seniors at North High said test scores and grades are only part of the picture.

"You've got to be a well-rounded student," Amalfitano said.

Amalfitano, 15, is taking five advanced placement classes, will participate in three varsity sports for the Hubs and serves as student government treasurer. He knows it's a lot of work to take on in a year, but he said it was necessary to get into a good college.

North High junior Mary Kavanagh, 16, said sometimes she's overwhelmed by the pressure to get good grades and stay active in extracurricular activities. Kavanagh, a shot put and discus thrower, is taking five advanced placement classes.

"When you can go to a class and get a 'B' instead of the 'A' you wanted and the teacher looks at you and says you have to try harder, I say 'Do you want to see my schedule?'"

Local schools were free of major first-day glitches, said Carol Mowen, spokeswoman for Washington County Public Schools.

Bus delays caused a few late arrivals at South Hagerstown High School, and there were some unfinished renovations to a gymnasium floor at North High, according to Mowen.

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