Back to school

Washington Co. students return to classrooms

Washington Co. students return to classrooms

August 24, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Stepping off of school buses and forming lines, children walked into Conococheague Elementary School weighed down by backpacks Wednesday morning.

Some yawned and rubbed their tired eyes. Months of sleeping in late had been interrupted by the first day of school.

One boy stood in the hallway and cried.

Most of the county's 21,200 students started school Wednesday, with the exception of some pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes, which begin on a staggered schedule.

Tina Messmer of Hagerstown said her daughter Emily Reed, 6, was thrilled to be back.

"Emily's been wanting to go to school a month ago," Messmer said.

About 7:30 a.m., the pair arrived at school, where Emily was starting second grade. Messmer said she took the day off of work to drive her daughter to school, an annual ritual for the family.


Renee Coulter stood in the elementary school's hallway waiting for her daughter to step off of the bus at 7:37 a.m. Holding a camera, Coulter said she was hoping to get a picture.

"You know, I think I missed her. I think she's already in class," Coulter said.

Briana Coulter, an 8-year-old third-grader, already was at her desk in a portable classroom. Her mother snapped a picture of Briana sitting in a cluster with three other students. Coulter said the family recently moved, and this was her daughter's first year at Conococheague. She was a student at Hickory Elementary School last year.

Briana said she knew only one student at her new school, a fourth-grader with whom she plays soccer. She wasn't nervous about making new friends, though, and said she'd already met a few students on the bus.

Cindy Steigerwald's daughter, Sarah, a fourth-grader, was eager to start school, she said. The pair arrived at Conococheague at 7:43 a.m. with Steigerwald carrying school supplies for her daughter's class and Sarah carrying a heavy backpack.

"There's about 15 pounds of stuff in there," Steigerwald said.

The family moved from England two years ago, and this is Sarah's second year at the school. Sarah said her favorite subject in school is art and she enjoys drawing pictures of animals, especially cats.

Robin Blankenship of Hagerstown said her son was the class clown at Conococheague Elementary last year. This year, when he will be a sixth-grader at Clear Spring Middle School, appeared to be off to a similar start. Jesse Blankenship, 10, stood outside the school at 8:15 a.m. wearing a shirt that read, "I don't suffer from laziness. I enjoy every minute of it."

"What a great first impression," his mother said jokingly.

Mark Holtzman of Big Pool walked his 11-year-old daughter, Lexie Holtzman, toward the middle school entrance at 8:27 a.m. This will be Lexie's first year of middle school, and also her first year at public school. She attended Heritage Academy last year.

"Lots of new things," Holtzman said.

Lexie said the biggest changes would be having lockers and a lunchroom. The school is also much bigger, she said.

"I'm worried about not being able to find the next class," she said.

With only three minutes between classes to get to her locker and to her next class, Lexie said she would have to hustle.

At 8:38 a.m., Candice Cross, 17, and two of her friends sat outside Clear Spring High School waiting for classes to begin. They are seniors this year.

The biggest change for upperclassmen is having five classes instead of four, Candice said. This was also the first year she was able to drive her car to school.

Sarah Faith said it seems that each year there are more freshmen.

"It seems like a lot more people," said Jena Jessop, 17.

At 12:39 p.m., Ashley Lewis, 14, was sitting in the cafeteria at South Hagerstown High School, where she is a freshman. She and most of the girls at her table decided not to eat lunch.

"I'm not hungry," Ashley said.

By the time they would make it through the lunch line, there might not be a place to sit anyway, she said.

Ashley said the high school was much bigger than E. Russell Hicks Middle School, where she was enrolled last year.

"There's so many more people," she said.

Kaylah Johnson was glad to be around so many people. The sophomore celebrated her 15th birthday Wednesday.

"Everybody gets to spend the day with me on my birthday," she said. "I tell everyone."

At 12:43 p.m., she was in the school's cafeteria. Earlier in the day, some of her classes sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

Morgan Williams, a seventh-grader who was leaving Springfield Middle School at 2:31 p.m., said she enjoyed her first day, and that her teachers were very nice. Morgan was home-schooled until this year when her mother went back to work part time.

Bethany Startzman, 11, said she was afraid she wouldn't be able to get her locker open, but was relieved when her first day at the middle school was problem-free.

Peyton Koester, a seventh-grader, said she was upset she and her best friend, Kaitlyn Githens, were not in the same classes. The girls were waiting to be picked up from school at 2:47 p.m.

There was one thing, however, that they were excited about Wednesday: No homework.

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