Saturday, August 23, 2008

Despite Reduced Budgets, Many Students Will Return To New or Restored Facilities

Higher Test Scores Among Counties' Goals

By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 17, 2008; Page SM01

Even with tighter public school budgets, Southern Maryland students and their parents can anticipate new initiatives, construction projects and curriculum changes when schools reopen this week and next.

Students in St. Mary's and Calvert counties return to class Wednesday; Charles County students start Aug. 25. School officials in the three counties say they are working to increase state standardized test scores, launch safe-driving initiatives in high schools and offer intense science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes.

Some students will arrive for their first day at new or renovated schools. Charles is opening its 21st elementary school, Mary B. Neal Elementary on Piney Church Road in Waldorf. Students decided in the spring that the school's mascot should be a blue crab, so on Wednesday they will be greeted by Pinch, the furry blue mascot of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball team.

"It's all ready to go," Charles School Superintendent James E. Richmond said of the new building, which can accommodate 760 students and will relieve crowding at other schools.

Charles is also building additions or renovating at four elementary schools that lost classroom space when the county implemented full-day kindergarten.

Calvert is finishing construction of Barstow Elementary School on Williams Road in Prince Frederick. The school's opening has been delayed until at least November, so Barstow students will temporarily attend classes in trailers at Calvert Elementary. Calvert is also starting construction of a Calvert Middle School building. Its students will not have to be relocated during the project because they'll continue to go to the existing school.
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