The final school bell rang Friday for Columbia County's 19,000 students, ending the 180-day school year. The Columbia County News-Times sent reporters to several schools, allowing them to take in the sights of the last day.
Lakeside Middle and High schools
"It's great. No more school, you get to sleep late," said RichardArcher, a Lakeside Middle School seventh-grader.
But as glad as he was about summer coming, he was equally looking forward to next school year when he would be an eighth-grader - big man on campus.
"We'll have more privileges," he said.
His friend Matthew Veal began barking.
Brittany Bominici, 14, (from left) teacher Missy Dorn, Danielle Lambert, 14, and Kiara Hinton share a group hug on the last day of school at Columbia Middle School.
Photo by Donnie Fetter
"It rocks," said Matthew, who's also going to be an eighth-grader next year. "It's exciting. I'm going to be a big dog."
Moya McGuire, also a rising eighth-grader, was ready for the power play.
"I'll get to boss everybody around," she said.
Jim Key also was ready to take his place at the top of the food chain.
"You get to push people around and stuff them in their lockers," he said, though principal Felicia Dumas promised no such thing had ever occurred at her school.
There was no way Lakeside Middle School sixth-grader Katie Fox was going to forget her friends. They all signed her blue jeans.
Sixth-grader Samantha Shore also was sad that the year had come to an end. She used her final moments at the bus stop to huddle with her friends.
"It's horrible," she said. "I got rezoned and I have to go to Evans (Middle School) next year."
Waiting at the bus stop at Lakeside Middle, Lakeside High School junior Curtis Cawley was anything but sad summer had finally arrived.
"I get to do what I want, when I want, however I want to do it," he said.
Blue Ridge Elementary School
Lakeside Middle School sixth-grader Chelsea Stewart waves to friends as her bus pulls away.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Wearing a grass skirt that was left over from a class luau, Blue Ridge fifth-grader Burgan Martin hugged principal Joyce Long and asked her to autograph her yearbook.
"I'm sort of sad about leaving," she said. "I like this school."
Carrying his Star Wars lunchbox and his blue sleeping mat, kindergartner Andrew Bowles said he was ready for summer.
"I think it's good cause I want to go swim," he said.
Second-grader David Brennan said the days off would be welcomed.
"Tomorrow I have baseball practice and I have other things I really like to do," David said. "And now that it's summer break, I can spend more time with my family.
Clay McDaniel said the arrival of summer break meant life could take on a slower pace.
"I've got baseball practice today and I don't have homework, so I don't have to be in such a rush," Clay said.
Grovetown Middle School
Students at Grovetown Middle School rocked and rolled and danced to the Isaac Joseph Band, celebrating the last day of school.
Kim Powell, 13, and Tregony Fletcher, 11, jumped to the front row to dance to Game of Love. Tregony spent the school's first year as a sixth-grader and is glad to be moving up.
"It will better than being a sixth-grader," Tregony said as she left for the buses Friday.
Sixth-grader Brooke Schnitzler had a harder time leaving. She hugged her teacher, Amanda Davis, several times before heading out to the buses. Brooke ran back a couple of times for last-minute goodbyes to Mrs. Davis before honking bus drivers signaled their departure.
North Harlem Elementary School
Daniel Gibson and Michael Young, both 9, spent their last few third-grade minutes playing a game of chess. Daniel is ready to move on, but Michael said he will miss teacher Cheryl Andrews.
As it is the last day of every year, Kelley Kids Kool Kafe was open for business. Betty Kelley's second-graders spent the afternoon serving pizza to their classmates.
Haley Mays, 7, and Cassidy Norris, 8, were busy sweeping the classroom just before the dismissal bell rang.
"I'll miss Mrs. Kelly," Cassidy said.
Andre Parker, 7, tugged and pulled on the zipper of his backpack to get it closed after stuffing it with all his projects, lunchbox, notebooks and such.
"I could fit the whole classroom in here if I needed to," he said after closing the zipper.
Andre and the other pupils in Kathy Holley's first-grade class got to share how they will spend their summers with the class. Of course, swimming was popular. Others talked of trips and birthday parties. Before leaving, Mrs. Holley made them all promise to read lots of books and be safe.
After the last bell of the year rang, Noah Graham, 6, sat on his backpack while waiting for his parents. He'll be moving into North Harlem's first grade next year, but will miss his kindergarten class.
"I will miss the centers," he said. "I like the computer center the most."
Columbia Middle School
On Friday, a more appropriate name for Columbia Middle School's eighth-grade wing might have been the Hall of Tears.
The rising ninth-graders will head to Greenbrier or Evans high schools next year - meaning they'd be splitting from some middle-school friends.
"This is really hard for me," said Emily Percival, 13. "I'm excited about going to high school, but there are so many people I'm going to miss so much."
The day was more poignant for 14-year-old Bethany Morgante. She'll be attending high school in a different state.
"I'm moving with my family to Florida this summer, so this is the last time I'm ever going to see a lot of my friends," Bethany said. "I'm going to try to keep in touch with them, but that's what people always say. I'm really going to try to, though."
Some pupils had a hard time saying goodbye to teachers as well as their friends.
"I hate leaving, because these are the best teachers I've ever had," said Scott Randall, 15, who is a rising freshman at Evans.
Even some of the teachers got a little weepy saying goodbye to their pupils.
"When you're with these kids all year long they start to feel like a part of your family," said Columbia Middle School history teacher Bob Boyd, wiping a tear from his cheek. "I've had a really great group of kids this year and I'm going to miss every one of them."
Bel Air Elementary School
The mood at Bel Air Elementary School was more jovial, as many fourth- and fifth-graders spent their last hour of school on the playground having fun and saying goodbye to friends.
After a major elementary-school rezoning this year, much of Bel Air Elementary's student body will head to Martinez or Lewiston elementary schools. Between moments of playful exuberance on the swings, basketball court or monkey bars, pupils took the opportunity to say their farewells.
"I'm upset, because I've got to leave my friends and my boyfriend," said Julieann Summers, 11, who is going to Lewiston next year.
Her boyfriend, 10-year-old Darrius Gomez, is going to Martinez Elementary and expressed the same sentiment.
"I'm going to miss seeing her every day," said Darrius. "I'm going to miss seeing a lot of my friends."
The last day of school may have been the toughest on Courtney Quick, 10, who is going further away then Martinez or Lewiston.
"My dad's in the military and is going to Korea for a year," said Courtney. "I'm going to move to Hawaii while my dad's away. I'm really going to miss my dad and my friends, but still, it's Hawaii."
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