Schools nearly ready for pupils

August 23, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY - More than 20,000 public school students head back to school today in Washington County. After a bustling summer, almost everything is ready for their arrival.

School system maintenance employees and contractors spent the summer working on about $5.5 million in improvement projects.

There were 144 construction and maintenance projects scheduled for summer work, and as of Tuesday night, 121 had been completed, according to Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael.

"Three more will be done (today)," said Michael Peplinski, supervisor of operations and maintenance.

The replacement of running tracks at county schools cost $316,000, according to data presented at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting. About $1.5 million in work was completed on ceiling and lighting projects.

The most costly project this summer was the removal of asbestos tile and the replacement of lights at Williamsport High School. The school's lighting system needed to be replaced and improved, Michael said. That could not be done without disturbing the school's ceiling tiles, which were made of asbestos. Those tiles were removed as part of a project that cost nearly $1 million.


Ten portable classrooms were installed in the county's schools.

The school system is still short eight bus drivers, according to Carol Mowen, public information officer for Washington County Public Schools. She said transportation office staff fills in and drives buses when not all the driver slots are filled.

Three teaching positions also are open, Mowen said.

A part-time prekindergarten position, a part-time position for a speech teacher and a full-time position for an English teacher have not been filled, she said.

Police also are ready to step up patrols while school is in session.

Maryland State Police awarded $515,000 in grants to local law-enforcement agencies throughout the state to enforce traffic laws related to school bus safety, according to a news release from state police. State police in Hagerstown and the Washington County Sheriff's Department received money to pay for officers working overtime on school bus patrols.

Staff writer Erin Cunningham contributed to this story.

School-related traffic laws

School-related traffic laws, according to 1st Sgt. Russell Newell, a Maryland State Police spokesman:

Drivers must stop for a school bus when its lights are flashing. Failure to do so can result in a $555 fine plus three points against a Maryland license.

Drivers must remain stopped while a school bus' lights are flashing. Failure to do so can result in a $555 fine plus two points against a Maryland license.

Drivers must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus, whether they are approaching from behind, from the front or from the side.

Speeding fines double in school zones.

School bus operators have the authority to contact police if they observe any of the above violations.

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