School’s out!

Published 10:32 pm Friday, June 14, 2013

Elephant's Fork Elementary School teachers Peggi Parker-Butler, left, and Kim Petrasek get Early Start student Landon Panzera to spell out and read the sign before his bus picked him up on Friday, the last day of school.

Elephant’s Fork Elementary School teachers Peggi Parker-Butler, left, and Kim Petrasek get Early Start student Landon Panzera to spell out and read the sign before his bus picked him up on Friday, the last day of school.

Summer starts for thousands of Suffolk students

Schools across Suffolk released their students into a summer full of possibilities around noon on Friday.

The dismissals came with much excitement and fanfare. Teachers at Lakeland High School donned Hawaiian shirts and leis, while faculty at Booker T. Washington Elementary School chose drums, pom-poms and noisemakers to escort the kids on their final journey out of the building for the year.

At most of the schools, staff gathered outside to wave goodbye to students as they rode away. It’s a tradition most everywhere, including at John Yeates Middle School, principal Dan O’Leary said.

Danielle Hare and Darlene Carter wave goodbye to their charges at Northern Shores Elementary School

Danielle Hare and Darlene Carter wave goodbye to their charges at Northern Shores Elementary School

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The students were “very well behaved” on the last day, but also very excited, he said.

But perhaps nobody was looking forward to summer vacation more than the teachers, he added.

“I think the teachers are looking forward to it.”

At Booker T. Washington Elementary School, teachers and staff formed a human tunnel for the kids to traverse. Students balanced science projects on top of piles of books and papers as they made their way toward the buses.

“It just closes out another school year,” assistant principal Steve Smith said, adding that teachers had tried to encourage the kids to read during the summer.

Encouraging reading was also a topic at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, as teachers held up signs to the buses departing telling the students to read and saying they would see them in September.

Teachers at John F. Kennedy Middle School wave goodbye as the buses pull away after the last day of school on Friday.

Teachers at John F. Kennedy Middle School wave goodbye as the buses pull away after the last day of school on Friday.

At King’s Fork Middle School, students viewed a slide show of memorable moments from the past three years, which was particularly special for the eighth-graders who had just finished their last day at the school. Students sported medals, signifying their academic achievements during the year, and physical education teacher Kisha Ricks served up pieces of a giant cake that teachers and students shared in.

At Northern Shores Elementary School, students left the building brandishing posters they’d made and scrawled celebratory messages in chalk on the concrete. Principal Tara Moore waved goodbye to buses from the bus loop, flanked by scores of teachers and other school staff, all waving, shaking maracas and blowing bubbles.

Kilby Shores Elementary School teachers escorted their students outside, ushered them to their various buses and then headed to the center island in the bus loop to yell and wave as the buses passed by, loaded with students screaming and waving in return.

Students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School leave for the summer as teachers and other staff cheer them on.

Students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School leave for the summer as teachers and other staff cheer them on.

Behind the teachers as they bid goodbye to their students, a group of volunteers from school partner St. Paul Baptist Church was preparing for a cookout and celebration with the teachers. Justin Goodman and Bishop Clarence Russell III were cooking hamburgers and grilled chicken, and the smell of the cooked meats blew over the heads of the teachers and into the open school bus windows as they passed.

At John F. Kennedy Middle School, bookkeeper Bernard M. Kee stopped to chat with Daren Daughtrey and signed the back of the rising ninth-grader’s shirt, which was covered with signatures from teachers, students and faculty from the school.

This is Kee’s last year with JFK, as he’s retiring to pursue his bookkeeping and accounting business on a full time basis. Students and teachers around the school were wishing him well as he roamed the halls in the waning moments of the last day.

Karen Jones, a counselor at Kilby Shores Elementary School gives a high-five to first-grader Jeremy Briscoe.

Karen Jones, a counselor at Kilby Shores Elementary School gives a high-five to first-grader Jeremy Briscoe.

The mood was more subdued at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, where teachers, some parents, and students held a memorial ceremony for Amanda LeGrand, a King’s Fork High School student who died suddenly in February. LeGrand attended Mack Benn as a youngster, and her mother still works there.

“This memorial is a reminder for all of us at MBES every day of the lives we touch, how short life is and what great things we can accomplish,” Stephanie Morris, PTA president at the school, wrote in an email.

The PTA did fundraisers to purchase benches, a butterfly bush and a plaque to put outside the school, while the students saved plastic bags for a recycling competition to earn a birdhouse, commemorating LeGrand’s love for animals. The items were placed in the yard in front of the school.

As for parents throughout Suffolk, they now face the prospect of finding ways to keep their energetic children busy and out of mischief. Richard Cacanindin, father of Northern Shores rising third-grader Zoe Cacanindin, said his family is off on a long-haul vacation to Disney World, Washington, D.C., and New York.

Miley Kay is going to a summer cooking school, said the rising first-grader’s guardian, Youlonda Meadows-Austin. “And she’s going to summer dance camp,” Meadows-Austin added.

Teachers still have a couple more days of school left, during which they’ll be cleaning classrooms, finalizing students’ files and generally getting everything set for the next school year.

While the end-of-year celebrations were taking place at Lakeland, incoming principal Douglas Wagoner was already looking ahead to the 2013-2014 school year.

Wagoner, who is being promoted from assistant principal to replace Thomas Whitley, spent most of the afternoon ensuring he has a full roster of staff for the coming year. He camped out in a conference room in the office, and teachers and other staff lined up to turn in signed contracts for the upcoming year.

“I’m actually more focused on the year that’s coming up,” he said.

See more News-Herald photos of the last day of school here. See reader-submitted photos of last day festivities here.