THE REGION

Monument Scaffolding on Its Way Down

Grown used to the scaffolding around the Washington Monument? It's time to start getting over it.

The scaffolding, which has its fans and spawned a Web site to build support to keep it in place, will begin coming down Monday, the National Park Service said yesterday.

Park Service officials said it could take as long as three months to remove the scaffolding, designed by architect Michael Graves.

The monument, which is undergoing a three-phase restoration project, will remain closed until the last phase is completed. The work is expected to be finished by late spring.

MARYLAND

Bay Oysters Might Be Bouncing Back

Last year's drought has made the Chesapeake Bay more salty, increasing the number of oysters affected by disease, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported yesterday.

But early indications show that the oysters may be developing a resistance to disease, researchers said.

Nearly all of 2,000 oysters sampled by state scientists in October were infected with Dermo, one of two diseases that ravaged the Chesapeake Bay oyster population in the early 1990s. But bay oysters are surviving at greater rates than in 1992 and 1993, the years of record-low harvests. That suggests they are becoming more tolerant of the disease, said Steve Jordan, head of DNR's laboratory in Oxford.

Pr. George's Says School Figures Flawed

Prince George's County planners acknowledged yesterday that their latest school enrollment projections are inaccurate and said they will adjust them by the end of the month.

School officials and education activists have been complaining that the five-year projections for many of the county's 185 schools are flawed, which could lead to new housing near crowded schools and new schools outside neighborhoods where they are needed most.

The accuracy of enrollment projections is critical because county government leaders use the data when considering whether to grant building permits to developers. Tom Tyson, a county planner, said at a public hearing on the matter yesterday in Upper Marlboro that "some factors were pointed out to us that will cause adjustments."

He said planners will revise the numbers, using better information about ongoing housing development and more detailed school boundary maps.

Prison Guards Criticize Tower Closings

Guards at the Eastern Correctional Institution on the Eastern Shore are criticizing a decision to close three of eight guard towers to cut costs.

Prison officials said because of budget constraints, they would no longer post nine correctional officers in three sharpshooter towers that overlook the prison. They said the other five towers, security patrols and the facility's electronic detection systems are sufficient.

"The commission has reviewed the warden's request and has no concerns with it," said David Towers, spokesman for the Maryland Division of Correction.

Jack Nelson, a Maryland Classified Employees Association labor relations representative, said closing the towers will pose a threat to safety inside and outside the facility.

Ruth Ogle, MCEA president, said the prison's inmates could seize an opportunity to escape when they are not being watched. Ogle cited the escape last summer of two inmates from the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup after a tower was closed there. The men, who were captured in Baltimore two days later, walked past guard towers and scaled a fence to escape.

Upper Marlboro Hopefuls Challenge Vote

Three candidates who lost their bids this week to unseat the incumbent members of the Upper Marlboro Town Commission are challenging the election.

R. Patricia Reno, John Bowler and Sassie Thompson Miles allege that candidates' names were listed improperly on ballots and that the election was not conducted in secret.

The three tried unsuccessfully to oust veteran commissioners Helen Ford, Robert D. Hopkins III and Lawrence K. Warman Jr.

Ford, who is president of the three-member commission, said the matter will be referred to the town's attorney.

VIRGINIA

Students Punished for Hazing Drop Suit

Seven students who sued for reinstatement to Norfolk State University after being expelled or suspended in a sorority hazing incident that seriously injured a woman have dropped their federal lawsuit.

The seven had contended that their constitutional right to due process was violated in the school's response to the February 1999 incident. The trial was set for Wednesday in U.S. District Court, but the case was withdrawn Tuesday.

President Marie McDemmond said the former students weren't paid any money and remain expelled or suspended. "There was really no settlement," she said.

Attorneys for the former students either could not be reached or declined to comment.

The hazing victim, Janelle Saulter, was forced to do hundreds of deep knee bends and other exercises, accompanied by occasional taunts, insults and hitting, according to her statement to school officials. She was hospitalized for eight days, including two in intensive care, and suffered damage to her kidneys and leg muscles, but has recovered and returned to school, said her attorney, John L. Watts.

Mayor's Funeral to Close Town Hall

Vienna will close its town hall today for the funeral of longtime Mayor Charles A. Robinson Jr., who died Monday of lung cancer. Police and other essential services will not be affected, officials said.

Robinson, 79, a World War II veteran and 47-year resident of Vienna, had been mayor since 1976.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"This is Day 8. I got it big time. It's like a massive cold with a fever that just won't go away, and aches and chills and pains. . . . I think I've blown my nose 50,000 times over the past week."

-- Barbara Davis, of Damascus, who came down with the flu even though she had gotten a flu shot.