PERRY HALL, Md. - The first day of school means something different to every student in Baltimore County—the end of summer, a new football season, reuniting with old friends—or in the case of Perry Hall High School, the unfortunate anniversary of a tragedy.
“I’m feeling a little scared,” Raj Bains, a 10th grader at Perry Hall High School, said Monday morning.
Bains’s classmate Perry Hall junior Daniel Borowy was shot on the first day of school of his sophomore year.
A lot has happened since then. Borowy recovered from the shooting, returning to classes in November. The shooter, another student, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in February. And the Perry Hall community came together stronger than ever in 50 years.
“I’m enormously proud of this school,” said Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall High School alumnus. “I’m proud of how this school community came together and overcame and extraordinarily difficult event. But I’m also very proud of the resurgence of pride that we see in our school and I’m reminded of what a great place to graduate from.”
Marks, wearing his navy blue Perry Hall alumni polo shirt, greeted students Monday morning handing out yellow rubber wristbands inscribed with the saying “50 Years of Tradition, Pride, Excellence.” The bracelets were a small part of a much larger, year-long celebration to commemorate the school’s 50th anniversary.
“We want to remind them that this is a wonderful high school,” Marks said.
All facets of the school will be represented at some point for the 50th anniversary from alumni-themed athletic contests, stage performances, art showcases and more, a decidedly celebratory change of pace for students.
But perhaps the biggest change to Perry Hall this year is one that is shared by all high schools the county: a new security system call Raptor .
From the first day of school on, all school visitors will be identified by the system that can pull up a thorough background check.
“I think that’s great. I think unfortunately it’s a necessary evil but a step up to security,” Marks said.
Youseef Moustafa, 17, drove his friends, including Bains, to school Monday morning. Moustafa knew about the new system, while Bains did not.
“I’m feeling good, normal,” Moustafa said looking over the rims of his black, thick-framed glasses. “I wasn’t really there. I was on the second floor,” he said of that fateful day last August.
Despite added security measures, the feeling of uneasiness would be reasonable to new students, so much so that it prompted Perry Hall High School administrators to devote time to the issue of security during a back to school orientation night on Aug. 22. There was also extra police presence at the school Monday morning to welcome students.
“The principal [George Roberts] mentioned on back to school night for freshmen that he knows there is a lot of anxiety that’s creeping up right now … and they’re doing everything that they can to be there as emotional support for the students and the children,” Amy Dorzey, a mother of a Perry Hall freshman, said. “They made it very clear about the security measures that are in place.”
Dorzey’s daughter will play in the school’s marching band, which welcomed students to a new school year Monday morning with popular renditions of spirit and fight songs.
“I think they’ve done a really great job of presenting the 50th school anniversary to make that a positive thing for the students of this year,” Dorzey said of the morning festivity.
She said her daughter will also have the “A lunch” or “the lunch” as some have taken to calling that first lunch period last year that was interrupted by two shotgun blasts.
“She’s very calm about it,” Dorzey said. “She told me she refuses to live a sheltered life.”
But that doesn’t curb a parent’s concern for safety.
“I was shocked. It was the last day of school and they had no buzzer on the door. They had nothing. You could essentially walk right in,” Dorzey said, a ringing endorsement of the new security system. “I was shocked because at the elementary and middle school you have to be buzzed in. The middle school is already doing the driver’s license scan, which they’re doing [at the high school only] now. … I was surprised that it was so light.”
New locks and a new technology are not the only additions to the school this year however. Driving down Ebenezer Road, large 50th anniversary banners flank the two-way street, with more decorations adorning the inside and outside of the home of the Gators.
Soon, artwork from different generations of Perry Hall students will be lining the school’s hallways to help unite past and present generations. But first, the school will bury a time capsule at a ceremony on Sept. 3 to preserve the memories of Perry Hall High School for the next 50 years.
“They should cherish every moment of it,” Marks said.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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