It's the first day of classes Monday for Montgomery County schools. Even if you don't have kids in school, beware! Traffic will be a bear as school buses, parents and carpools hit the streets.
And, if you're late and you think driving around that school bus is justified, think again. Starting today, a number of school buses will have cameras attached that can catch you in the act.
The fine: $250. Unless a police officer witnesses it. Then, you can get a $1,000 ticket and three points on your driver's license.
A Momentous Occasion
Patch editors will be scouring the county and may show up at your local school to document the first-day jitters and joys.
Leave it to parents to sum up the gravity of the situation. A Greenbelt mom told her kindergartener when school started in her area last week, "This is the beginning of a very long road."
Superintendent Joshua Starr hit the media circuit last week in advance of Day One, reporting:
- Montgomery County hired 650 new teachers for this school year and reports few, if any vacancies.
- Montgomery County Schools add about 2,500 students a year on average, with every district enrolling more students this year than last.
- Every county school has a librarian.
In Search of Writers
If that last bullet point from Starr warms your heart, you probably love reading and perhaps, even writing. If you are in high school or know a high schooler, the Gaithersburg Book Festival has kicked off its third annual short story contest.
Entries of 1,000 words or less must start with one of three sentences:
- The first time he saw her, she was homeless, sitting in Union Station eating crackers from a paper bag….
- I was 16 the year my brother vanished….
- Every summer, whether he or she wanted to or not, one person was chosen to go to the moon….
Submit your entries as a Word doc to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight ET on Feb. 15.
If you're not in high school, but still want to write, submit a blog to Patch by creating a free user account, scrolling down under "Local Voices" and clicking on the box that asks the question, "Want to blog on Patch?" No opening line requirement, we promise.
In a story that got Montgomery County talking, Patch reported on a growing immigrant youth movement in our area. As the Republicans gather in Tampa for their national convention this week, one of the big political issues for November in these parts is a referendum on the "Dream Act" on in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Relatedly, Casa de Maryland, the state’s largest immigrant advocacy group, led a push to get more than 1,000 applicants to Langley Park and Baltimore for the onset of President Obama's program to give certain illegal immigrants a two-year shield against being deported.
Want to know more about this movement and the Dream Act? You've got barely 10 weeks before Election Day, so you'll be hearing a lot more about the campaign to persuade voters to shoot the act down.
Go here to see Patch reporting on the referendum and how it will be worded at the ballot box.
Not Laboring Day
Even though we're back to school and thinking ahead to November voting, we've still got a holiday to celebrate. Labor Day in Montgomery County is all about baton-twirling, politician glad-handing, cotton candy-eating fun, so be on the lookout for Patch photo galleries of local parades and post your own snapshots for friends and neighbors.
According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, more of you than in the past will choose to skip the parades and leave town over Labor Day due to Americans' "unwavering desire to travel.” Should you go by car, which most Americans do, you're facing gas prices of about $3.72 a gallon -- not great, but not bad either.
Get Ready for Some Football
Once Labor Day is over, the No. 1 escape as we face fall is football, right?
In a new fall feature, Montgomery County's Patch sites will be selecting a high school football Game of the Week. It's up to you which game that is.
We'll post a poll every week listing the games across the county. All you need to do is vote for your selection as the Montgomery County Patch High School Football Game of the Week. The first games are coming up fast, so cast your vote now by clicking here on Gaithersburg Patch.
Bethesda is Rich But What Cities are 'Best?'
Gaithersburg ranked 23rd and Germantown 24th on CNN Money's list of America’s Best Small Cities. The list was published at Money.CNN.com. Carmel, IN, was named the top town.
Other regional cities to make the list were:
- Reston, VA (No. 7)
- Columbia/ Ellicott City, MD (No. 8)
- Centreville, VA (No. 17)
- Waldorf, MD, (No. 20)
According to CNN, Bethesda is the nation's "top-earning" town, with a median family income in 2011 of $184,606. The report also noted that about half of Bethesda's residents have graduate or professional degrees.
We Knew About the Shark...
An experienced snake trapper trying to extricate a poisonous copperhead from a garden deer net in Silver Spring was bitten by the reptile, according to a Fredrick News-Post news report. Tammy McCormack had to take antivenom, painkillers and antibiotics, but she is said to be recovering. She said her company has had a lot of business lately and she should have slowed down when trying to remove the snake. No snarky analogies about office politics required.
No Stilettos On the Billy Goat Trail Please
We tend to take for granted that we have the Potomac River and its trails and outdoorsy ambiance nearby. We probably also forget there is a team of rescuers on the water always at the ready.
Potomac Patch Local Editor Katie Griffith went out with water rescue team members from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue and brought back some great photos of what they see as a job in which they're "paid to play on the water all day."
Ironically, many of their rescues are due to the mistakes in judgment by those on land -- at the surrounding trails and waterfronts.
The Billy Goat Trail at the C&O Canal park entrance at Angler’s Inn, for example, is extremely strenuous and proves too demanding for many, some of whom have to be rescued by the quickest route -- via boat.
“We’ve seen everything from 80-year-old grandmothers to women in high heels on the trail,” said swift water rescue trainer Lt. Peter Cacopardo.
For some, the Potomac River isn't just a water playground, it's the intersection between the folly of humans and the natural world. It's a living, breathing ecosystem that sparks cultural and political debate.
Patch columnist Roger Hamilton writes about the other Potomac in his most recent River Watch, describing how the snakehead has inserted itself into the river's ecosystem. As he states, many people still believe that the mean-looking Asian fish "are only fit to club to death. The State of Maryland recommends the additional step of ripping out their gills, just to make sure."
But Hamilton tells why they might even be worth admiring.