ELKRIDGE – Meghan Splaine, 13, first heard Thursday that the president was coming to visit her middle school.
For the eighth grader, that meant extra hours of practice, so she and the rest of Mayfield Woods Middle School’s choir would be ready for the big day.
Clinton and his presidential entourage will arrive Wednesday morning to promote safe and drug-free schools. Life has been hectic in the intervening days for children and teachers at the Howard County school.
But the event has been on again, off again. Later Thursday – – the very day that word began to spread — Meghan’s choir teacher said the president was not coming. Then Friday, the date was set, and the time for 11 a.m. to noon. On Monday, the event was still Wednesday, but now 10 a.m. to noon.
“With the president coming, you have no idea what’s going on,” said the freckle-faced Meghan, her long brown hair in a pony tail.
On Tuesday, the Secret Service turned the principal’s conference room into a makeshift command center, where White House staffers ironed out last-minute details with school officials. Marine helicopters were taking off and landing from a recreational field south of the five-year-old school building.
“I don’t think this has gotten in the way of our teaching,” John Aquila, physical education teacher, said tongue in cheek.
Students were excited — some a bit nervous — at the thought of meeting Clinton.
“I’m happy. My parents say it’s a honor to meet the president,” said sixth grader Karla Wochok, 11. The best part of the visit is that “we’re getting out of class.”
Sunny Bhatia, another 11-year-old, agreed. “We’re excited. We can’t wait. We want to talk to him and see him,” he said.
Agents spent Monday sifting through student lockers, and planned to sleep over Tuesday night, just in case someone decided to make an early morning visit to the school.
Meghan found the agents “scary. You walk by them, and you just go OK,” she said, shrugging her shoulders and shifting her hands into her pockets. “It’s like Arnold Schwarzengger in that movie `True Lies.'”
“They’re not scary, they just fit their stereotype,” Evan Workman, 13, chimed in.
Evan, a tall youth with a dark buzz haircut, was preparing posters for hallways and classrooms and ribbons for students to hold.
“Some of my friends have experienced drugs and alcohol,” Evan said, anticipating the impact of Clinton’s message. “Most of my friends will care, but I know at least three that won’t.”
Clinton will participate in the school’s annual red ribbon ceremony. He is to focus on the importance of safe and drug-free school programs on the one-year anniversary of the crime bill.
“If people see the president is going up there, they will see it, and know it’s true,” Evan said. “They will not listen to their friends, but they are going to listen to him more than their friends….
“The only president I saw was President Bush when he was doing one of his campaign things,” Evan continued. “Its great that President Clinton will take time out — he runs the country — the U.S. I mean, there is a war in Bosnia. He’s taking time out of his schedule — who’s running the country? I think he’s a great guy for doing it.” -30-