Special-Needs Student Unnoticed on Bus

A special-needs student was mistakenly driven to another school after a bus driver and attendant failed to discover the boy sleeping in his school bus yesterday morning, Montgomery County school officials said.

The driver and attendant found the sleeping student, an eighth-grader at Montgomery Village Middle School, when they picked up students to transport to a school in Potomac, said John Matthews, a spokesman for the Montgomery public schools transportation department. The eighth-grader, whose age was not known, was never left on the bus unattended, Matthews said, and was immediately taken to his school.

Both the bus driver, who had been on the job for a week, and the bus attendant, an employee for 15 years, have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, Matthews said.

Biodefense Campus Progress Reviewed

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz visited Fort Detrick this week to review progress on the proposed National Interagency Biodefense Campus, officials said.

Wolfowitz was "very impressed" during his visit Wednesday with plans for the multi-agency complex of laboratories and offices, his spokesman, Charley Cooper, said Thursday.

Fort Detrick's commander, Maj. Gen. Lester Martinez-Lopez, said groundbreaking for the first building is about two months away. That project is a $105 million laboratory to house researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

A National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center planned by the Department of Homeland Security is undergoing an environmental review. The Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases also plan to build laboratories on the campus, which is supposed to foster information-sharing and reduce duplication of effort among military and civilian researchers.

Perdue to Close Plant, Offer Transfers

Perdue Farms announced yesterday that it will close the company's poultry processing plant in northern Worcester County and offer its 326 workers jobs at other plants on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The complex in Showell will close Nov. 5, as the company streamlines operations and moves production to a plant near Perdue headquarters in Salisbury and another plant in Georgetown, Del., said Perdue spokesman Joe Forsthoffer.

Workers, who were told yesterday morning the Showell plant would close, will be offered similar hourly positions at the Salisbury or Delaware plants. Perdue will offer a temporary van service to shuttle workers to the Salisbury facility, about 25 miles away, and to the Delaware plant 92 miles from Showell, officials said.

"What we were able to do is take Showell's production and move it to other facilities," Forsthoffer said. "We were able to keep the workers and not have an underutilized facility."

Perdue Farms last year closed two plants in Robersonville, N.C., and Emporia, Va., that had employed 900 workers in what was called a streamlining move that also transferred operations to other facilities. The 18,000-employee company is the third-largest poultry producer in the United States.


Sterling Student Has Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis has been diagnosed in a student at Potomac Falls High School in Sterling.

The disease, an inflammation of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord whose symptoms include fever and headache, is a common summer ailment, Loudoun County Health Director David Goodfriend said.

It is much less serious than bacterial meningitis, in part because it is not nearly as contagious. The student, whose age and sex were not released, is recovering, he said. Health department officials usually are not notified in cases of viral meningitis, but school officials contacted Goodfriend in this case, he said, because of recent heightened awareness surrounding the disease.

A 16-year old died of the disease in Fairfax in June, in a case scientists classified as extraordinarily unusual.

Fairfax Might Sell Pohick Road Land

Fairfax County school officials are considering selling more than 35 acres of land on Pohick Road in the Springfield area and using the money, an estimated $12 million, to build two schools ahead of schedule, one in the western part of the county and one in the Hunter Mill District.

The Fairfax County School Board has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal sale Sept. 23.

Fairfax Leaders Unite to Battle Gangs

Fairfax County yesterday announced the start of an effort in its fight against gangs: a council of local leaders to oversee prevention efforts.

The Coordinating Council on Gang Prevention, representing school, police, social service and community leaders, will focus on teaching parents signs that their children might be joining a gang and on adding after-school programs. Gangs tend to recruit after school, officials said.

The Board of Supervisors set aside $200,000 for the council, to be led by Council Executive Anthony H. Griffin.

Warner Wants to Improve Senior Year

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) plans to survey high school seniors nationwide to find out how their final year -- when many students slack off after getting into college or deciding not to go to college -- could be made more interesting and relevant to their futures.

Warner hopes to survey 10,000 students in the class of 2005 before next summer's meeting of the National Governors Association in Des Moines. Warner is chairman of the association and has taken on redesigning the American high school as his initiative.

The survey will be kicked off Thursday at George C. Marshall High School in Fairfax, where Warner will look to seniors for ideas.

Floyd County to Bottle Va. Tech Wine

A Floyd County winery will be bottling Virginia Tech's official wine.

The university says Chateau Morrisette will introduce Hokie Bird Red and Hokie Bird White next week. Retail outlets will sell the wines this fall, and a portion of proceeds will go toward the university's general scholarship fund.

"With as much public education and checkpoints that we do, the responsibility is still on the individual to not drink and drive."

-- D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, noting that motorists are not responding to campaigns against drunken driving and that police will be out in force this weekend to try to prevent it. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Rosalind S. Helderman, Lisa Rein, S. Mitra Kalita and Nicole Fuller and the Associated Press.