Teachers across the county returned to their classrooms today to prepare for the more than 79,000 students who will join them next week when the 2013-2014 school year kicks off in Anne Arundel County.

The year will be one with plenty of new faces, including more than 500 teachers and a new interim superintendent – Mamie J. Perkins – who will be making their debut in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS). Also new will be the county’s first middle school Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) magnet program, opening at Old Mill Middle School South, and the opening of the Phoenix Academy, a state-of-the-art facility that will provide opportunities for special education and alternative education students to excel.

“This is an exciting time for all of us in education, and there isn’t a single educator anywhere who doesn’t look forward to the first day of school,” said Ms. Perkins, who started in her position on August 1. “I am very much looking forward to visiting schools next week and to seeing the smiling faces of students, teachers, and all of our employees. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

Anne Arundel one of state’s fastest growing school systems

With another year of significant increase in student enrollment, AACPS remains one of Maryland’s fastest growing public school systems. Data from the Maryland Department of Planning shows AACPS as the third-fastest growing system between now and 2022, when more than 6,300 additional students are estimated to enroll in schools here. AACPS is currently Maryland’s fifth largest school system.

Policy and regulation changes

The new year also brings with it three important policies that will impact students across the county. Two new policies (GAOO and JCCC) and their accompanying regulations allow for the use of social media for instructional and communication purposes at schools and establishes protocols to help ensure parents are aware of and involved in these efforts.

A revised policy (KA) and its accompanying regulation change the way information will be distributed to students this year. Only flyers and material from AACPS; governmental agencies; PTAs, PTOs, etc., operating within AACPS; clubs directly affiliated with AACPS; and the 21st Century Education Foundation will be sent home with students in their backpacks this year. Material from other Anne Arundel County organizations, including youth athletic teams, can only be displayed on a table or rack designated at each school.

More information on the new policies and regulations can be found on the AACPS website at www.aacps.org/aacps/boe/board/newpolicy/Policies.asp.

Staggered start for students

Across the county, most students in first through fifth, sixth, and ninth grades will begin classes on Monday, August 26. The staggered openings of secondary schools will give sixth- and ninth-graders a chance to get acclimated to their new surroundings before the remaining students return to class on Tuesday, August 27.

Kindergarten, prekindergarten students, and ECI students will also start school on a staggered schedule. Parent-teacher conferences for those grades will be held beginning August 26, with the three-day staggered entrance schedule beginning August 28. Parents will receive their child’s actual start date at their parent-teacher conference.

Delayed openings

Planned construction projects will delay the opening of nine county schools. The following schools will open to students on Tuesday, August 27, so that teachers will have an additional day to set up classrooms and prepare for instruction:

  • Annapolis High
  • Central Middle
  • Severn River Middle
  • Southern Middle
  • Phoenix Academy
  • Crofton Elementary
  • Lothian Elementary
  • Mills-Parole Elementary
  • Point Pleasant Elementary

Schools with delayed openings will adjust staggered entrance schedules accordingly, with the entire schedule sliding by one day. The only exception is Phoenix Academy, where all students will begin class on August 27.

In addition to the above schools, Central Special School, Marley Glen Special School, and Ruth Parker Eason Special School will open for students on Tuesday, August 27. Parent conferences at those three schools will take place on Monday, August 26.

Temporary facility for students at two schools

Annapolis Elementary School students will spend the last of their two years in a temporary location – Annapolis Middle School – as the historical downtown facility undergoes a $28.9 million revitalization project.  In addition, Lothian Elementary School students will be housed at Southern Middle School for the next two years while a $32.7 million replacement school is built.

Security reminder for visitors to schools

County schools are equipped with A/I phones which allow office personnel to communicate with visitors to determine the nature of their visit before allowing admittance to the school office. Parents, community members, school system employees, and others planning to visit schools are reminded that AACPS security procedures require all visitors to show a government issued identification card (such as a driver’s license) to be admitted into a school. The ID card is scanned through a system that cross-references visitors against sexual offender databases.

Visitors should not hold the front door of a school open to allow other visitors not in their party into a school.

Emergency drills at schools

During each school year, various drills are conducted at every school to ensure that staff and students are prepared in the event of an emergency. These drills include monthly fire and emergency evacuation drills.

In addition five drills with scenarios developed by the school system’s Office of School Security and based upon various possible emergency situations are done each year. These include, but are not limited to: evacuation for natural gas emergencies; shelter for tornado and earthquake; shelter for outside hazardous materials release; lockout for danger outside of the school building, reverse evacuation back into the school for students and staff outside; and lockdown for a person with a weapon inside of the school.

These drills are discussed with staff prior to the drill, and evaluated once the drill is complete. In some cases, the drills may be discussed with students before they take place.

Fueled up and ready to go

This year, more than 662,000 hours will be spent driving about 600 buses over 10.4 million miles to transport students to and from schools.  On a daily basis, more than 58,000 students use county school transportation services.

Bus services are offered to students living outside designated walking areas at each school. Prekindergarten and kindergarten students who live greater than one-half mile from school, elementary school students who live greater than one mile from school, and middle and high school students who live greater than one-and-one-half miles from school receive transportation services.

Routine bus evacuation drills will be conducted throughout the school year.

School bus schedules are posted online at www.aacps.org and are also available at all schools.

Communication with parents continues to expand

AACPS continues to expand the ways in which it is communicating with parents of students. The school system’s use of Blackboard Connect (formerly Connect-ED) to deliver phone and email messages will be enhanced to include text messaging capability for parents and guardians who desire it. Parents who wish to receive text messages should make sure their child’s school has the proper mobile number on file.

In addition, schools now have the ability to create Twitter pages to communicate with parents. The school system’s Blackboard Connect system is also linked to these pages, providing yet another outlet of information for parents.

Notices of emergency closings and delays

Changes to school schedules caused by inclement weather or other emergency conditions are announced through the Blackboard Connect (formerly Connect-ED) automated telephone, email, and text message notification system; posted on the school system’s website (www.aacps.org), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/aacps), and Twitter page (www.twitter.com/AACountySchools); and broadcast on major area radio and television stations, including AACPS-TV (Channel 96 on Comcast and Broadstripe, and Channel 36 on Verizon).

In addition, announcements are posted (and parents may sign up for email alerts) on the School’s Out website (www.schoolsout.com).

New Faces

The Board of Education has a new face this year, Student Member Else Drooff. The Broadneck High School senior is the 40th student to serve on the Board, and the only one on a local Board in the nation with full voting rights. She was appointed to a one-year term in July by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Board President Teresa Milio Birge and Member Andrew Pruski were reappointed to the Board this summer. They will each serve five-year terms.

There also are new principals at 20 schools across the county. Fourteen of those schools – Annapolis and North County high schools; Brooklyn Park, Chesapeake Bay, Meade,  and Southern middle schools; Annapolis, Freetown, Glendale, Hillsmere, Jones, Riviera Beach, and Van Bokkelen elementary schools; and Phoenix Academy – will be led by first-year principals. Severn River Middle School and Mills-Parole, Nantucket, Point Pleasant, Ridgeway, and Solley elementary schools also have new principals who have moved from other county schools.

Meal prices unchanged again

The prices of school meals will not change for the third consecutive year. School breakfasts will remain at $1.35 this year, with lunches at elementary and secondary schools costing $2.60 and $2.85, respectively. At all schools, reduced-price breakfast is 30 cents and reduced-price lunch is 40 cents. The cost of milk also remains at 55 cents per bottle.

In addition to serving unlimited fresh fruits and vegetables daily, AACPS continues to offer a variety of meal options to ensure students are properly fueled for the school day.  Thirty-nine schools – eight more than a year ago – will offer free breakfast to all students as part of the Maryland Meals for Achievement program. Eleven more schools will allow students to purchase breakfast and eat with teachers and peers in the classroom as part of the Breakfast with Class program.  In addition, about a dozen schools will serve free early evening meals to students through a federally-funded initiative aimed at supporting good nutrition and combating youth hunger.

Students who wish to apply for free or reduced-price meals must complete a new SY2013-2014 Meal Benefit Application. Applications are accepted throughout the school year.

For the fifth straight year, AACPS is utilizing an enhanced computer system, MyPaymentsPlus, to make meal purchases faster and easier. Students whose parents deposit money into an account can use their six-digit student identification number to make purchases. Parents can register to receive emails when balances are low, and can monitor their child’s purchases. Questions about the prepayment programs should be directed to the school a child attends.

AACPS menus will feature additional healthy options for all students. Choices include additional fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grain options, and more lean protein and low-fat dairy options.

Last year, AACPS served nearly 5 million lunches and 2.3 million breakfasts in schools. The system receives no county funds to operate lunch and breakfast programs. Revenue for the program comes from federal reimbursements (51 percent), food sales (46 percent), and state funding (3 percent).

Board meetings on TV and website; Board votes online

Meetings of the Board of Education, which occur on the first and third Wednesdays of most months, are broadcast live on AACPS-TV. Comcast and Broadstripe subscribers can find the programming on Channel 96, while Verizon subscribers can find it on Channel 36. Meetings are rebroadcast at 6 p.m. the day after the meeting and 2 p.m. on subsequent Sundays.

Archived videos of Board meetings can be found online at www.aacps.org/boardvideos.

Voting records of Board members are categorized by meeting date and can be found online here .

For more information, contact: Bob Mosier, Public Information Officer, 410-222-5312