Bustling again post-pandemic, Montgomery County’s back-to-school fair on Saturday at Westfield Wheaton Mall drew crowds that were easily double the size of last year’s turnout.
“We’ve been impacted by COVID-19 on the school calendar for two years and one quarter, that’s a long time,” Montgomery County Public School Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight said.
It was elbow-to-elbow in a sprawling parking garage, with parents and students visiting tables for information about resources available inside and outside the public school system. There was even a health clinic for children to catch up on school-required immunizations.
“This event speaks to the resiliency of our community. I believe this is the largest turnout that we have ever had for a back to school fair,” McKnight said.
Tables at the fair presented information helpful not just to students, but to their families as well, in areas including health and housing. County school officials said the back to school fair was a great place for families to get answers to their questions.
Among the nearly 2,000 new students this school year in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest school district, is a rising eighth grader who explored the resources at the fair while contemplating Monday’s first day of classes.
“I’m looking forward to it, because we just moved here … from Italy … I have a map of the school and I feel confident I’ll find some friends and I’ll connect with people,” Helina Viola said. She will be joining the eighth grade class at Julius West Middle School in Rockville.
Students had much to think about as they prepared for a return to their classrooms. Many had shopped for back to school supplies, including new outfits.
“I’m thinking about almost everything. I’m thinking about how it’s going to be and stuff like that, because I haven’t been to school in a while,” 9-year-old Rockville Elementary fourth grader Catalina Ascacibar said.
The school system remains one of the most diverse school districts in Maryland.
“We’re a very diverse school system, there are people in our schools, our families, that speak over 150 different languages. We service seven immediately and we can interpret for as many others as we need to,” said Christopher Cram, spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools.
Back to school fairs in the District and in Prince George’s County also took place Saturday.