System welcomes students back to new year -- Gazette.Net


Lillian Davis, 5, confidently got off the bus at T.C. Martin Elementary School. “I'm in kindergarten,” she told a teacher as she stood in line with other members of her kindergarten class.

Lillian started school Monday with other students from Charles County Public Schools and many private schools.

Parents at any given elementary school had cameras in hand, ready to see their little ones get off the bus and walk into school.

A little earlier in the morning at North Point High School, Sheriff Rex Coffey, members of the Charles County Sheriff's Office and Charles County schools Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill greeted student drivers with fliers that reminded teenagers of the rules of the road and had a message from Hill and Coffey (D) regarding the We Care safe driving campaign, which began in 2008.

The campaign came about after nine students died in traffic-related accidents in 2007. Driving, Coffey said, is “the single most dangerous thing everyone does every single day.”

In the five years since the program began, two students have died in traffic-related incidents.

A Henry E. Lackey High School student died last school year. A car crash led to his death, but it was ruled accidental and not a traffic fatality.

Hill said that the key to the program is the partnership between student government, the school system and the sheriff's office.

Hill said that students have taken ownership of the program.

“Kids are telling other kids, 'Look, we need to be careful,'” she said.

Kelly Martin, 17, a senior at North Point, said that driving is no joke. She said the biggest distraction for all drivers is texting.

“Be smart, and don't text and drive. It can wait,” she said.

Hill said she was excited about school starting Monday and that she would make her way to every public school by the end of the week.

Come the end of the week, students like Emily Herscher, 6, a first-grader at T.C. Martin, could be well on their way to establishing routines and paving the way for a successful school year.

Emily said that on the first day of school, students meet their friends and then sit at their desks to listen to their teachers.

During the day, “you learn about stuff,” she said.

Eventually, students like Emily get recess and lunch, where, Emily said, “you sit by your friends, have a good time and talk to them.”

After lunch comes more learning and then it's time to go home, she said.

Emily said that those who are starting school for the first time should not be scared, but “ready to learn, make new friends and be nice to each other.”

Before, during and after school, volunteers from the school system's central office manned the school system's bus hotline, which was put in place to answer bus-related questions two days prior to school starting and during the first two days of school. From 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., volunteers took calls about what time certain buses reached certain stops, where a child's bus stop is and other similar inquiries. As of noon Monday, 1,232 calls came in.

Katie O'Malley-Simpson, school system spokeswoman, said parents can call the central office any time during the school year for bus questions but that the hotline was established to field the volume of calls that come in at the start of the school year. The number is 301-934-7262.

Director of Transportation Rich Wesolowski said that the School Locator section of the school system's website has reduced the amount of calls fielded. The application uses mapping data from the county and filters the data by the system's current school zones. Parents can find information about buses by entering their home address.