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Enrollment appears to be up at Washington County schools

August 21, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- More than 19,000 students went back to school Wednesday in Washington County -- 1,800 of them to new buildings.

Washington County Public Schools started the 2008-09 school year by opening three new schools: replacements for Pangborn and Maugansville elementary schools and the new Rockland Woods Elementary School south of Hagerstown.

"I think the new schools in Washington County signal a new era for us," said Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan. "We worked very hard to get the new schools."

Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael said that 19,907 students reported to school Wednesday. Kindergartners start on a staggered schedule, and about 800 will go to school for the first time today, he said.

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There also are 806 students enrolled who did not show up on the first day. About 500 prekindergartners also have yet to start school, but will begin this week. Michael said that officials anticipate hundreds of other students enrolling in school this week and next.

He said it would be premature to predict an exact enrollment number for the county's public schools, but that it appeared enrollment would grow from last year.

There were 21,184 students enrolled during the 2007-08 school year.

School system spokesman Richard Wright said Wednesday that the 2008-09 school year had a positive start.

Central office staff visited every school and "all reports came back very positive from across the county," he said. "Everything went off very well today from what we've heard and witnessed."

Michael said the day was very successful with minor issues, if any.

"It looks as if we never left," he said. "Teachers were already teaching."

On the first day of school, Morgan praised the commitment of the county's teachers and staff and said she's looking forward to a successful school year.

Asked how it felt to see three new schools open and see children in the classrooms, she said, "It feels so good."

When Morgan came to Washington County Public Schools in 2001, she said there was aging infrastructure and very little funding even to make repairs.

She said building new schools was part of a "vision" she shared with others in the system.

"These new schools really signal in a new era, and we also have the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts (under construction in downtown Hagerstown)," Morgan said. "We not only need to have incredible teachers, but good learning environments as well."

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