Greenbrier Elementary School fifth-grader Jaquan Jones ended the school year Friday with mixed emotions.
Grovetown Middle School eighth-graders Tiffany Blevins (from left) Jami Warren and Keirra Smith, all 14, share one last group hug before climbing onto separate buses for their last ride of the school year home Friday. See more photos on Pages 7 and 8.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
His trepidation at moving up to a new school was overshadowed by his exuberance for summer vacation.
"I'm going to miss my teachers, but I'm glad school's done," the 11-year-old said.
Similar scenes played out across the county as the system's 19,663 pupils said goodbye to school and hello to summer. Here are some of the highlights:
At Lewiston Elementary School, pre-kindergarten teacher Paula McNair looked like a child opening presents at a birthday party. The kids crowded around, threatening to suck the oxygen from her space as she opened gifts. One was a wide-brimmed straw hat filled with summer accessories, such as sunglasses and a battery-operated fan.
"Now I can keep my hat on and have something cool to drink," she said to Dalton Carter and Drew Deas.
Myranda Conner's mother Shannon Conner presented McNair and her assistant Carol Phillips with gift certificates from class parents.
"You two are the most patient, loving and kind people I've ever know," Conner said tearfully. "Thank you for making her first school experience so wonderful. She just loves it."
Filled with sugary drinks and ice cream sundaes, the 4- and 5-year-olds darted around the room.
"This is the energy that keeps me going. I cannot wait to see all the wonderful things you do next year," McNair told her students.
Twenty minutes into the party, the ice cream was mushy, and Shelby Vest helped herself to it and all the toppings.
"Guess what? I got all the cherries," she said, tilting her cup.
It was all waves, tears and shouts goodbyes at Grovetown Middle School on Friday.
Eighth-graders Tiffany Blevins, Jami Warren and Keirra Smith shared one last group hug before climbing onto their separate buses. The next bus they ride will be taking them to Harlem High School as freshmen.
All three admitted they are nervous about heading to high school.
"But we're ready for it," Jami said.
Principal Carolyn Fries said it was always difficult to say goodbye to eighth-graders, as she waved to the last bus of students with teary eyes.
Seventh-graders Cameron Abrams, 12, Aaron Cross, 13, Tyler Key, 13, and Jason Reeves, 13, were focused, not on moving up to eighth grade next year, but on their summer plans.
"We're going to skateboard all summer," Jason said, before the group split apart for the ride home.
At Greenbrier Elementary School, Principal Jon Pike added a little extra fun after presiding over graduation exercises for the school's fifth-grade classes that morning.
"About two months ago, I made you a deal," he told cheering students, recounting a promise to shave his head if Greenbrier's standardized test scores improved.
"And one of the things I want you to learn as you go through life is, if you make a deal, you gotta stick to it!" he said, as office assistants buzzed off his golden locks.
After the final bell rang, marking the end of the 180-day school year, 11-year-old Katrina Shultz worried about moving from Greenbrier Elementary to Middle School in August.
"I'm a little scared because, what if we don't like our teachers, we can't find our class, older kids are mean to us, we forget our locker combination?," she said.
"Everything's going to be new and different, and we might not know what to do," Katrina's friend Mary Turbyfill, 10, interjected.
Glenn Cassedy, 11, a fellow graduating fifth-grader from Greenbrier Elementary, dreaded going to sixth grade for another reason.
"We won't get recess," he said.
Students weren't the only ones sad Friday afternoon.
"The kids that are leaving for sixth grade were in pre-K when I started here," Greenbrier fifth-grade teacher Jill Coleman said. "I've watched them grow up from babies to be young men and women.
"It makes a little sad to say goodbye, but they usually come back to visit. I'm so proud of them."
The end of the school year brought a retirement and a reunion for Jane Beek at Evans Elementary School.
The fifth-grade teacher got a congratulatory hug from former pupil Hye-Ji Park, a rising eighth-grader at Greenbrier Middle School.
"She was one of my jewels," Beek said of Hye-Ji, who dropped by the school to say goodbye and to pick up her little brother, Jun Park, who rises to fifth grade just as Beek retires.
For Emilyne Maggs, the end of her year of kindergarten brought the beginning of summertime pursuits. "Yay! School's finally out! I get to go swimming," Emilyne squealed as her mother, Renee, snapped photos of the 6 year old in the school's parking lot.
For 8-year-old Hannah Holland, who was hugging a beach ball from a class party, the end of second grade also meant the end of her time in Columbia County - she's moving to Oregon this summer. "I'm going to get to ride the plane all by myself," she said.
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