Schools open Aug. 29 for 2016-17 school year

Maryland Independent - - News -

The 2016-17 school year of­fi­cially be­gins on Mon­day, Aug. 29, for stu­dents in grades kinder­garten through 12. Charles County Pub­lic Schools (CCPS) ex­pects to wel­come more than 26,500 stu­dents this school year. Stu­dents en­rolled in the pre-kinder­garten and 3-year-old pro­gram start school on Tues­day, Sept. 6.

Dates for the com­ing school year are avail­able on the CCPS web­site in the 201617 Par­ent Hand­book/ Cal­en­dar at http://­en­dar/201617CCPSCal­en­dar.pdf.

Stu­dents and staff mem­bers will re­ceive a copy of the cal­en­dar dur­ing the first week of school. To en­sure all stu­dents and staff re­ceive a cal­en­dar, com­mu­nity re­quests will not be hon­ored un­til af­ter the first two weeks of school.

For ad­di­tional back to school in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing open house and ori­en­ta­tion dates and times, go to the CCPS press re­leases sec­tion of the web­site at http://

Ste­wart to host back-to-school fi­esta

Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) will host her sec­ond an­nual Back to School Com­mu­nity Fi­esta 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Satur­day, Aug. 6, at Mat­ta­woman Mid­dle School, 10145 Berry Road, Wal­dorf. There will be in­for­ma­tion about healthy eat­ing, learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and more. All chil­dren must be ac­com­pa­nied by a par­ent or guardian. RSVPs are no longer needed.

State sales tax waived dur­ing Tax-Free Week

The an­nual Shop Mary­land Tax-Free Week takes place Aug. 14-20. Dur­ing that week, any sin­gle, qual­i­fy­ing ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing or footwear priced $100 or less — re­gard­less of how many items are pur­chased at the same time — will be exempt from the state’s 6 per­cent sales tax.

Re­sult­ing from leg­is­la­tion passed by the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly in 2007, the tax-free week is held an­nu­ally dur­ing the sec­ond week in Au­gust.

Busi­nesses sell­ing items that are not el­i­gi­ble for in­clu­sion in the tax-free week can still par­tic­i­pate in Shop Mary­land. Un­der “Sellers Priv­i­lege,” other un­qual­i­fied mer­chan­dise can be sold tax-free, but the re­tailer is re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing the sales tax owed to the state.

For more in­for­ma­tion on qual­i­fy­ing items, go to the Comp­trol­ler of Mary­land’s web­site at www. mary­land taxes. com, e-mail tax­help@ or call 410-260-7980 in Cen­tral Mary­land or toll-free at 1-800-MD-TAXES.

SMECO warns cus­tomers to avoid pay­ment scams

South­ern Mary­land Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive (SMECO) cus­tomer-mem­bers have been vic­tim­ized from time to time as scam­mers seem to work their way through dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the coun­try. Some trends have emerged as scam­mers be­come more pro­fi­cient.

“Scam­mers fre­quently prey on the el­derly and peo­ple who speak English as a sec­ond lan­guage. But, lately, busi­nesses have been tar­geted,” Tom Den­ni­son, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment and pub­lic affairs at SMECO, said in a press re­lease.

In one in­ci­dent, a fran­tic busi­ness owner re­ceived a call and was told his power would be cut off within an hour if he didn’t make a pay­ment. “That busi­ness owner was fo­cused on a ma­jor event he was pre­par­ing for, and he be­came alarmed. Rather than tak­ing a few min­utes to con­tact SMECO di­rectly to check his ac­count, he made a pay­ment over the phone to the fraud­u­lent caller,” Den­ni­son said.

Scam­mers may tar­get busi­nesses be­cause of sev­eral fac­tors. Busi­nesses usu­ally have higher monthly bills and scam­mers will take ad­van­tage of that, claim­ing the busi­ness cus­tomer owes $1,500 rather than just $200. Busi­nesses may have more than one per­son au­tho­rized to pay bills, and scam­mers ex­ploit the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween em­ploy­ees and busi­ness own­ers.

To cause fur­ther con­fu­sion, scam­mers can make the name of the util­ity ap­pear on a cus­tomer’s caller ID, and they have im­proved their abil­ity to trick peo­ple by du­pli­cat­ing voice record­ings and im­i­tat­ing util­ity phone sys­tems.

“Some of the ways these scam­mers can im­i­tate the util­ity are pretty con­vinc­ing. A scam­mer who pro­vided a call­back num­ber even used voice prompts that were recorded from SMECO’s phone sys­tem,” Den­ni­son said.

SMECO has a set rou­tine for col­lect­ing pay­ments from cus­tomers. Un­known call­ers who give short dead­lines and threaten to cut off ser­vice within an hour or two are prob­a­bly run­ning a scam. SMECO will mail a ter­mi­na­tion no­tice if a bill is past due. SMECO calls cus­tomers who owe a past due bal­ance us­ing an au­to­mated phone sys­tem with a recorded mes­sage; rarely will SMECO em­ploy­ees make per­sonal “col­lec­tion” phone calls.

Col­lec­tion calls are made about 10 days be­fore ser­vice is to be ter­mi­nated. SMECO does not re­quire pay­ment at the time of the call. SMECO does not make col­lec­tion calls or ter­mi­nate ser­vice on week­ends or hol­i­days. If ser­vice is go­ing to be ter­mi­nated, a SMECO col­lec­tor will knock on the cus­tomer’s door be­fore turn­ing off ser­vice. SMECO col­lec­tors will ac­cept credit card pay­ments, checks, or money or­ders, but they do not ac­cept cash.

Con­versely, cus­tomers who know they owe money should con­tact SMECO to make pay­ment ar­range­ments.

Fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties are also con­ducted by email. Cus­tomers who re­ceive elec­tronic bill no­tices should not open emails from un­fa­mil­iar sources. SMECO’s emails con­tain ac­count-spe­cific in­for­ma­tion, such as the cus­tomer’s name and the first few dig­its of the ac­count num­ber, and they use the co-op’s dis­tinc­tive or­ange and green col­ors. Emails that con­tain sev­eral gram­mar and spell­ing mis­takes are prob­a­bly not le­git­i­mate. If an email looks sus­pi­cious, it may con­tain mal­ware or links to a virus-in­fected web­site. Cus­tomers who re­ceive a sus­pi­cious email should not open it or click on any links; they can sim­ply delete the email.

For cus­tomers who be­lieve they have re­ceived a fraud­u­lent email or phone call, some ba­sic guide­lines fol­low. Cus­tomers should use the phone num­ber printed on their monthly bill and only give pay­ment in­for­ma­tion over the phone if they ini­ti­ate the con­tact. Cus­tomers should not pro­vide per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, bank­ing in­for­ma­tion, user names, pass­words, or ac­count in­for­ma­tion to unau­tho­rized call­ers or in an email. Cus­tomers should not pro­vide Green Dot, West­ern Union, or Money­gram pay­ments to unau­tho­rized call­ers. Cus­tomers should never meet unau­tho­rized call­ers at a lo­cal store or bank to make a pay­ment—their per­sonal safety could be at risk.

For more in­for­ma­tion, call SMECO at 1-888440-3311 or go to smeco. coop/stop-scams.

Kick­ball tour­na­ment to ben­e­fit foundation

The Com­mu­nity Foundation of South­ern Mary­land’s sixth an­nual Com­mu­nity Kick­ball Tour­na­ment, pre­sented by Bay­side Auto Group, will take place 2 p.m. Sun­day, Aug. 28, at Hal­low­ing Point Park in Calvert County. Sign up or spon­sor by Aug. 12.

Teams are made up of 10 play­ers (mix­ture of males and fe­males). In­di­vid­ual reg­is­tra­tion is $15 and spon­sored team lev­els start with our Grand Slam spon­sor at $1,250, Home Run spon­sor at $500, and a Triple Play spon­sor at $250. All play­ers will re­ceive a T-shirt. Spon­sors will get there busi­ness logo on all t-shirts and printed materials and re­cruit their own team play­ers. Check in is at 1:30 p.m. and the tour­na­ment be­gins at 2 p.m. Each team is guar­an­teed two games and prizes will be given to the first and sec­ond place teams.

For ad­di­tional rules and de­tails, to vol­un­teer, spon­sor, or reg­is­ter, go to www.somd­giv­, or con­tact Lisa McKin­non at donorser­vices@cf­somd. org, or call 240-670-4483 (GIVE).

Part­ner­ship helps save more than $2 mil­lion on pre­scrip­tions

United Way of Charles County Inc. and fam­i­ly­wize an­nounced in

a press re­lease that 11,675 lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers have saved $2,091,567 on pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions through the or­ga­ni­za­tions’ part­ner­ship. The re­sults were re­vealed in the an­nual Health Im­pact Re­port, a com­pen­dium of data re­flect­ing the health and fi­nan­cial sup­port of­fered by United Way and fam­i­ly­wize in its joint com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives across the countr y.

More than 1,000 United Way chap­ters have col­lab­o­rated with fam­i­ly­wize to help 9.6 mil­lion Amer­i­cans save more than $1 bil­lion, with an av­er­age sav­ings of 40 per­cent since the part­ner­ship be­gan, ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease.

The fam­i­ly­wize pro­gram is free and saved par­tic­i­pants an av­er­age of 43 per­cent off of their pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions in 2015. Ac­cepted at more than 60,000 phar­ma­cies na­tion­wide and cov­er­ing all FDA ap­proved pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions, the fam­i­ly­wize card has no el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments and is avail­able to any­one. To sign up for the pro­gram, go to www.fam­i­ly­, down­load the An­droid or Ap­ple app, or print out the card. The card is also avail­able at the United Way of Charles County, Inc.

For more in­for­ma­tion about United Way of Charles County, Inc., go to unit­ed­way­ or call 301-609-4844. re­quired to be tested in ac­cor­dance with the Un­der­writ­ers Lab­o­ra­to­ries (UL) 217 and 2034 stan­dards. Manufacturers are re­quired to sub­mit these life sav­ing de­vices to ap­proved test­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries, such as, UL or In­tertek/ETL for test­ing and re­view. Ap­proved lab­o­ra­to­ries test these de­vices to the in­dus­try-ac­cepted stan­dard. When de­vices are not tested to this stan­dard, they may not ac­cu­rately de­tect the pres­ence of smoke and fire in the ap­pro­pri­ate time and thusly not al­low oc­cu­pants to es­cape the ef­fects of fire or a car­bon monox­ide in­ci­dent.

The National As­so­ci­a­tion of State Fire Mar­shals (NASFM), an as­so­ci­a­tion whose prin­ci­pal mem­ber­ship com­prises the se­nior fire of­fi­cials in the United States and their top deputies, is ask­ing the countr y’s largest on­line re­tailer to stop the sale of smoke alarms that are not tested to na­tion­ally-rec­og­nized stan­dards and which may not com­ply with ap­pli­ca­ble build­ing codes in many states and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. NASFM is also ask­ing the Consumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion (CPSC) to take ac­tion to en­sure con­sumers are pro­tected and pur­chas­ing safe prod­ucts.

NASFM iden­ti­fied mul­ti­ple smoke alarm brands lack­ing third party test­ing lab­o­ra­tory marks on Ama­zon. com in­clud­ing: X-Sense, Arikon and Bovon.

Safety tips and best prac­tices:

• In­stall at least one smoke alarm on ev­ery level of the home, in­clud­ing the base­ment. For best pro­tec­tion, smoke alarms should be in­stalled in­side and out­side sleep­ing rooms. Make sure every­one can hear the alarm, knows what it sounds like and what to do when it ac­ti­vates. Keeping bed­room doors closed while sleep­ing will help pre­vent smoke and toxic gases from en­ter­ing the room, al­low­ing more time for the oc­cu­pant(s) to es­cape or be res­cued. Peo­ple who may be hard-of-hear­ing or deaf can use spe­cialty alarms. These alarms have lower deci­bel 520 mhz alarms, lights and/ or bed shakers. In­stall pho­to­elec­tric smoke alarms near the kitchen to pre­vent nui­sance alarms. Gen­er­ally, the de­vice should be a min­i­mum of 10 feet from a cook­ing ap­pli­ance. For the best pro­tec­tion, equip your home with a com­bi­na­tion of ion­iza­tion and pho­to­elec­tric smoke alarms or dual-sen­sor alarms. Smoke alarms with non-re­place­able 10 year long-life bat­ter­ies are avail­able and are de­signed to re­main ef­fec­tive for up to 10 years. These de­vices are now re­quired where bat­tery-only de­vices are in use in the State of Mary­land. If the alarm chirps on these units, warn­ing that the bat­tery is low, re­place the en­tire smoke alarm right away. For smoke alarms with any other type of bat­tery, re­place bat­ter­ies at least once a year (prefer­ably twice a year dur­ing day­light sav­ing time). If the alarm chirps, re­place only the bat­tery. Re­mem­ber, even alarms that are hard­wired into your home elec­tri­cal sys­tem need to have their bat­tery main­tained in case of an elec­tri­cal power out­age. Fol­low the man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions for clean­ing to keep smoke and CO alarms work­ing prop­erly. The in­struc­tions are in­cluded in the pack­age or can be found on the in­ter­net. Test alarms once a month us­ing the test but­ton. All smoke and CO alarms should be re­placed ev­ery 10 years to en­sure the ear­li­est no­ti­fi­ca­tion in the event an in­ci­dent oc­curs. De­vise a fire es­cape plan with two ways out of ev­ery room and a des­ig­nate an out­side meet­ing place. Share and prac­tice the plan with all who live in the home, in­clud­ing chil­dren. Be sure guests are aware of the plan as well. When a smoke alarm sounds, get out of the home im­me­di­ately and go to a pre-planned out­side meet­ing place to call 911.

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