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School’s out for summer!

By Alex Perry, Kellie Adamson and Tracy Agnew

The children walked into the warm sunshine of Thursday afternoon with cheers, clapping and the seemingly endless clatter of bells held by each of the faculty at Driver Elementary School.

It was the last day of school for more than 600 Driver students, about 90 of whom will transition from elementary to middle school in the fall, according to Principal Melodie Griffin.

“It doesn’t feel like school is over yet,” said David Davinport, 11, who finished fifth grade and walked off to his bus carrying his backpack and box.

The chimes came together as the final school bell in Driver. The school will close its doors at the end of this semester, and this fall’s elementary schoolers will attend the new Florence Bowser Elementary School under construction just down the road on Nansemond Parkway.

“It’s just sad,” said Music Teacher Jeanie Baird as students walked past her toward the buses. “This morning at the fifth-grade assembly, everybody was crying. But we’re still excited for the new school.”

There was a chorus of mixed emotions among the parents and faculty.

“It’s got two ways, and one is sad and one is good,” said Verna Amurao, who picked up her granddaughter, rising second-grader Alex Posey. “The good is that the new school is going to help everybody, especially with a bigger parking lot. But the sad part is that my ancestors founded Driver.”

The students got on their buses and rode off for the last time, teachers and staff joined Griffin in hollering and cheering with wildly-moving arms and the last ringing of the bells. The school’s final principal felt bittersweet about the end of an era.

“It’s wonderful that the students will have an opportunity to enjoy a new, state-of-the-art facility, but it’s also bittersweet that we’ll lose the small feel of Driver Elementary School,” Griffin said.

At Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, teachers used noisemakers, tambourines and Silly String to send students off into their summer. The buses made an extra loop as all the teachers waved and shouted.

“The kids are so excited,” Principal David LeFevre said after the buses had left. “The fifth-graders are so emotional. We keep telling them they can come back and see us.”

Things won’t be quiet at Mack Benn Jr. for too long — 600 students will attend summer school there starting in a little more than a week. There’s also summer camp and other programs, LeFevre added.

Pioneer Elementary School ended its school year with a bang. Teachers greeted their students with bubbles, pom-poms and happy music to mark the end of a long school year.

Most of the students were excited to kick-start summer break, but there were a few in tears because they were going to miss their teachers and their friends.

“I’ve had my students crying all day. I’m going to miss them.,” said fifth-grade teacher Katelyn Leitner-Black, Suffolk’s teacher of the year honoree this year.

Most of the kids had impromptu dance parties while “Happy” by Pharrell and “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper played over speakers and some teachers shook pom-poms and tambourines. Some had even gotten a hold of some Silly String and were chasing each other around outside.

While the teachers expressed their excitement for summer, it was hard for some of them not to get emotional as they said goodbye to their students.

“This job is worth more than any amount of money,” second-grade teacher Jill Gwaltney said. “I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. I had the best group of kids this year, and I’ve been crying all day.”