HIGH HOPES and high anxiety are being felt around Philadelphia as classes resume today for the 172,000 students in the School District of Philadelphia.

That's because, along with first-day excitement - and the opening of a new elementary school, five new charter schools and the expansion of a handful of programs - the district still is grappling with seismic issues.

Musical chairs is being played at the top: the chief executive officer, chief academic officer, chief financial officer and chief operating officer all are recently appointed interim officials.

A permanent chief executive is not expected to be named until the end of this year, said Frank

Seifert, chief of staff for the district's governing School Reform Commission.

Meanwhile, the deficit left by the former officials will require the interims to find and cut $20 million more in programs and personnel from this year's operating budget.

Already cut is $8 million from the budgets of schools for disruptive students and the jobs of dozens of classroom aides and non-teaching assistants who help keep order - leading some to worry about school safety and instructional quality.

"I would love to say that I am optimistic, but there is still too much to be done. I hate to be a pessimist, but there are a lot of classrooms that will have 43 and 46 kids," said Greg Wade, president of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, the district's largest group of parents.

Keeping schools safe for students and teachers is on more people's minds than ever, given last year's series of student attacks on teachers and staff.

Lawrence Jones, a senior at West Philadelphia High School's automotive academy, said he is confident that changes being implemented at his school this fall will prevent a repeat of the fires and violence that kept West Philly on edge last year.

"I have big hopes for the new year because we have a new principal, and I was part of the selection process . . . She's young, and I think she gets students," Jones said of Saliyah Cruz.

Of last year's fires, Jones said: "It's not that many kids doing that, just a small amount. I think even they realize that enough is enough. We want to learn," he said. "The teachers and the school are going to work harder this year to stop all the chaos."

Here's a look at some of what's new in Philly schools this year:

New schools

This morning, outgoing reform commission Chairman James Nevels and interim CEO Tom Brady are scheduled to ring in the new year at the district's newest school - so new it has been temporarily named for the streets where it is located.

This morning, outgoing reform commission Chairman James Nevels and interim CEO Tom Brady are scheduled to ring in the new year at the district's newest school - so new it has been temporarily named for the streets where it is located.

The G & Hunting Park Elementary in Juniata Park serves 800 pre-kindergarten through eighth graders. The 102,000-square-foot school will alleviate overcrowding at Hopkinson School, officials said.

The school cost $20 million, according to the school district.

In addition, five new publicly funded, independently run charter schools are opening today, pushing the total number of city charters to 61.

Mastery at Pickett Charter School in Germantown teaches grades seven through 12; Planet Abacus Charter School in Tacony teaches grades kindergarten through eight; the Southwest Philadelphia Academy for Boys has grades nine through 12; TrueBright Science Academy in North Philadelphia teaches grades nine through 12; and the Southwest Leadership Academy teaches kindergarten through eighth grade.

Early-childhood

growth spurt

More 3- and 4-year-olds than ever will be enrolled in early childhood programs thanks to Gov. Rendell's PreK Counts initiative. The school district received $18.8 million from the program to expand its enrollment capacity by 21 percent this year.

More 3- and 4-year-olds than ever will be enrolled in early childhood programs thanks to Gov. Rendell's PreK Counts initiative. The school district received $18.8 million from the program to expand its enrollment capacity by 21 percent this year.

That means 9,600 children will be served, up from 7,562 last year, said Donna Piekarski, of the school district's Office of Early Childhood Education.

The new seats are being provided by 50 community-based child- care centers, while the district's Head Start, Comprehensive Early Learning Centers and Bright Future sites will educate the majority of the youngsters.

All of the programs are free, run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and last 180 days.

"For parents, this is enormous because many kids were at home because their parents could not afford three, four, five thousand dollars to send their kids to preschool," Piekarski said.

The new state money pushes the school district's annual spending on early-childhood education to $90.6 million, officials said.

More college access

The school district's dual-enrollment program will grow by 200 slots to accommodate a total of 1,200 students.

The school district's dual-enrollment program will grow by 200 slots to accommodate a total of 1,200 students.

The program is run in partnership with 10 universities and colleges; students in it are able earn college credits while still in high school.

A library grows

in Germantown

Moved by the poor condition of the library at Germantown High School, the religious and business communities pitched in to help. They bought new books, refurbished the library and created a new computer room.

Moved by the poor condition of the library at Germantown High School, the religious and business communities pitched in to help. They bought new books, refurbished the library and created a new computer room.

It was all coordinated by the Germantown Clergy Initiative.

"Our goal was to bring the library up to standards and to set a model for how a school and community can work together," said Rev. Alyn E. Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.