There was a time in Southern Maryland when students saw clear harbingers that summer was ending and school was looming. First and foremost, the end of August into Labor Day brought the tobacco harvest.
The cutting, spearing and hanging of the plant to cure for market was another step in that back-breaking, labor-intensive work.
Also, in a pre-cable, pre-streaming time when there were only four television stations you could pull in with an external antenna, at least two of those channels carried the annual Jerry Lewis telethon.
It meant the next day was back to pencils, books and teachers.
Since the tobacco buyout, that harvest and the telethon are things of the past in Maryland, but three years ago the post-Labor Day beginning of classes returned, with an executive order by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that pushed classes back until after August.
However, Maryland legislators overruled Hogan’s executive order earlier this year, so we can likely expect public schools here and elsewhere in the state to open for students before Labor Day once again starting as soon as next year.
So for most of the nearly 15,908 public school students inCalvert County, yesterday was the season opener, the first of 180 days of pop quizzes and cafeteria lunches. Calvert Catholic schools started a week ago. The Chesapeake Public Charter School started three weeks ago. So the rhythm of the school year is already strumming its first notes.
There are, at last count, more than 65 new teachers from pre-K to high school. Some schools’ physical plants have been spruced up, from roof renovations and HVAC systems to other facelifts.
And security continues to be tightened up with better entry vestibules and more resource officers.
Many students are in school for the very first time, in kindergarten and prekindergarten. And by now all of them, from the youngest to the oldest, have discovered if they share a classroom with friends.
And all of them, from age 4 to 18, are learning about the expectations of their teachers this year.
Those teachers are setting a tone they hope will last through the school year.
They are getting to know their students — and also getting to know what their students know.
Depending on the age of those students, that may mean finding out if they know how to tie their shoes or if they are ready to dive into honors chemistry.
So it’s a time for fresh starts, and for Calvert’s more than 1,100 teachers and staff to rediscover, as they do each year, why they remain in this profession, this vocation, this calling they have chosen.
All of these talented and caring people are engaged in enormously important work that shapes the lives of young people. That can’t be stressed enough.
Indeed, lives will change over the next 179 school days between now and next spring.
Eyes will be opened, social skills developed, content learned, steps to independence and maturity they will need in their adult lives will be mastered.
In short, students will be getting an education.
What happens in these public schools, and in the private schools that educate hundreds of more students, will also plant seeds for much of what will happen in Calvert County after they graduate and begin to contribute to and influence the life of this community.
Calvert’s schools toss together an unusual, eclectic mix of students. There are the relative newcomers whose parents are here because of work or other professional opportunities.
All of them are now gathered in the schools, and their influence starts now. They will be contributing, most of them positively, to the work and growth that will take place in classrooms in the months ahead.
So students, let’s open those books and get cracking. Because there may very well be homework tonight — and that’s a good thing.