By Kim Walter
CLEAR BROOK -- Frederick County Public Schools welcomed students back for the 2013-2014 school year Monday, and according to Superintendent David Sovine, faculty and staff have "hit the ground running."
Sovine, along with Albert Orndorff, assistant superintendent for administration, and Peter Vernimb, assistant superintendent for instruction, held a press conference Monday afternoon at Stonewall Elementary School to go over the first day's activities.
The executive staff members managed to visit 14 of the division's schools on the first day. They met with principals, teachers and a few students.
"There were a lot of smiles and excitement," Sovine said. "And I'm not just talking about the kids. The teachers were all ready to get started with student learning and engagement."
Vernimb said he was pleased when he stopped by one of the county's elementary schools and found that students had already been split up into small groups to discuss a lesson.
Thanks to teachers putting in hard work over the summer, Vernimb added that students seemed to have a smooth transition from summer freedom to the official start of another school year.
"Faculty and staff have already set and explained expectations for our students," he said. "Our kids are already working ... it's just been a very positive day."
Monday's attendance for the entire division was 12,696 -- almost 80 fewer students than last year's first day of school, which set an attendance record.
Orndorff said the projected enrollment for this year is 13,150. Since the school year started slightly earlier than in year's past, he added that he's not completely surprised to see a lower turnout.
"I think we'll have a much better idea of our actual membership after Labor Day," he said. "Until then, I'm not too concerned about the drop in attendance."
While out visiting schools, Orndorff found out that some parents waited until Monday afternoon to register their children, and he said that could continue for the next several days.
Stuart Wolk, chairman of the Frederick County School Board, was happy to report that he attended opening day activities at Greenwood Mill Elementary School. This was the first that Wolk was able to make the trip since he recently retired.
"I've been on the board for 18 years now, and I've always wanted to stop by a school on the students' first day," he said. "I am so glad I finally got to, because seeing those bright eyes and intense, focused looks on the kids' faces absolutely made my day."
Sovine said the support staff also reported a pleasant, calm first day. Although construction is under way at several elementary schools, it didn't seem to get in the way of student drop off, pick up or activities during the actual school day.
"When you look at a system our size, things like getting kids through the lunch line, and making sure they're on the right bus are not small tasks," he said. "But all of that went well, thanks to the good communication and planning of our support staff."
The division still has several positions that need to be filled. Additionally, parents and guardians will have another month to apply for the school system's free and reduced meals program.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org