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Excitement reigns during first day at Rockland Woods

August 21, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- On the first day of school, every student at Rockland Woods Elementary was the new kid in class.

School began Wednesday at Washington County Public Schools. Nearly 500 students will attend Rockland Woods -- the first new public school to be built in the county since Eastern Elementary was constructed in 1992.

Carrying backpacks and bags filled with everything they might need, students entered the new building Wednesday morning. Some were anxious to get going and already knew where their classes were. Others paused to pose for photos taken by their parents.

One boy sat in the hallway and cried.

Rockland Woods is one of three new school buildings that opened Wednesday. The other two are replacement schools for Pangborn and Maugansville elementary schools.

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Amber Scheffler and Adam Marcum, of Downsville, arrived at Rockland Woods just before 11 a.m. to have lunch with their daughter, Kayla Marcum. The kindergartner's first day of school was Wednesday.

Walking to the cafeteria, Kayla saw her mother and asked, "Mommy, am I leaving here after this."

Scheffler said her daughter didn't want to leave, and Scheffler told Kayla she still had another few hours.

"I was excited about playing with kids," Kayla said.

By lunchtime she had already made some friends, played with Play-Doh and listened as her teacher read the class a book.

Scheffler and Marcum said they were students of Suzy Abeles at least 15 years ago when they attended Fountain Rock Elementary. Abeles is a physical education teacher at Rockland Woods now and will be teaching their daughter.

On Wednesday Abeles, who taught at Fountain Rock for 21 years, showed students their gymnasium, which includes climbing ropes, basketball hoops and a rock climbing wall.

Abeles was one of many teachers who switched schools to teach at Rockland Woods. About 130 Fountain Rock students -- roughly one-third of the school -- made the transition with Abeles. Students from 17 schools, including Fountain Rock were affected by redistricting that went into effect this school year.

Students spent the first day of school getting to know their building, their classroom and each other.

Dana McGill, a behavioral specialist at Rockland Woods, said children were "excited" to be at the 85,277-square-foot building, especially since most came from smaller schools.

"I see a lot of excited kids, and a lot of excited parents," Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said during a visit to the school Wednesday. "There are a lot of advantages for students here. Everyone here will be a part of building something new."

Principal Kathy Stiles said students will have a role in shaping their new school. As the first class at Rockland Woods, they will choose their mascot and school colors, though some mascot suggestions she has received -- including "small mouth bass" and "snakes" -- might receive less consideration, Stiles said.

Music and drama clubs will start in the next two weeks, followed by the forming of an art club, she said.

"Parents are starting a fitness club for kids," Stiles said. "We have so many parents who have come in to help. It's going to be a great year."

A day at Rockland Woods



Here are a few of the things that happened Wednesday at Rockland Woods Elementary School:

6:10 a.m. Rockland Woods Principal Kathy Stiles arrives.

6:50 a.m. Students began arriving at the new school at 18201 Rockland Drive outside of Hagerstown.

7:07 a.m. The first school bus arrives.

7:09 a.m. Students exiting bus No. 437 are greeted by parents and staff who tell them to "have a great day."

7:20 a.m. More buses arrive. Students are given stickers with their bus numbers on them.

7:25 a.m. Staff members in the hallway of the school ask students if they know where to go.

7:35 a.m. School begins.

7:40 a.m. Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan arrives.

7:50 a.m. Morgan reads with kindergarten students in Tammy Mariner's class.

8 a.m. Students in Joni Rouse's fourth-grade class put their supplies in their lockers.

8:30 a.m. Teacher Terra Grove explains to her class of fifth-graders the proper procedure for asking to use the bathroom.

8:40 a.m. Grove's students learn more about their teacher by playing a game.

8:46 a.m. Shelly Telemeco, a school counselor, introduces herself to Grove's class.

9:04 a.m. Matt Nolan, a fifth-grader, puts his backpack in his locker in the upper floor of the school.

9:12 a.m. Second-grade students in Jill Davis' class take out their school supplies and organize their pencil boxes.

9:30 a.m. Gym teacher Suzy Abeles explains how to use different equipment in the gym to a group of second-graders.

10:45 a.m. Lunch periods begin.

2:05 p.m. School ends for the day.

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