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Last school day a chance for partying, fun in Gainesville

POSTED: May 18, 2013 12:38 a.m.

With tears in her eyes, second-grade teacher Maria McConnell says goodbye to her class.

McConnell’s class, like most of the classes at Gainesville Exploration Academy, held an end-of-the-year party Friday to celebrate all of their hard work.

Friday was the last day of the school year for Gainesville City Schools. Hall County Schools will break for the summer May 23.

A few parents donated pizzas and cakes to the classroom for the party. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County also supplied the school with ice cream for students.

“They’re such a sweet group,” McConnell said wiping the corner of her eye. “Seventeen years I’ve been doing this and it doesn’t get any easier. They’re a sweet group and they’ve worked hard all week studying up until the last day.”

In the morning, the class completed its rain forest unit and final lesson of the year. The class read a poem in the schoolwide talent show after the lesson and went back to their room for treats and games.

“We’re basically kind of partying for the rest of the day,” McConnell said laughing.

The students at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School also partied after completing their lessons.

Assistant Principal Kim Davis said the school has always tried to make the final school day a fond memory for the children.

Davis laughed as she explained the school’s tradition of squirting the children with spray bottles and buckets of water as they board the bus.

All the students gather outside to wave goodbye to their friends and teachers as the buses pull away. The teachers and students manage to get each other “pretty much soaked” by the time the buses leave.

“We’re always looking for something naughty to do,” Davis said with a laugh. “Somehow we’re always the school that does the slightly naughty thing you shouldn’t do as adults. We have a good time, we really do.”

Davis said the teachers and administrators try to make the last day of school too much fun for students to want to miss.

Out of 90 fifth-graders, only one was absent Friday. About 20 students were checked out of class early.

“Our kids for the most part love the tradition of waving goodbye from the bus and squirting the water,” Davis said. “They like that tradition and they don’t want to miss it.”

The same was true at Gainesville Exploration Academy. While a lot of parents stopped by the school to drop off party supplies, not many checked their students out of school for the day.

“Most students stay for the end of the day,” Assistant Principal Lesa Hartley said. “Because that’s been a part of our attendance policy this year is just to get them here on time and stay until the end of the day.”

Having fun with friends one more time doesn’t hurt their motivation to stay in class either, Hartley said.

Second-grader Kamilah Banks said she feels very sad about her last day in the second grade and hopes her friends don’t end up going to different schools next year.

“I’m gonna miss it a lot,” Kamilah said. “I’m gonna miss my teachers, my classmates and all the parties. We had like a lot of parties.”

Kamilah adjusted her blue party dress and lowered her voice to admit she feels a little nervous about going into the third grade.

“The only thing I’m scared about going into the third grade is that I’m hoping there’s not like any hard work,” Kamilah said. “Like what if there’s ‘divided by?’ I don’t know any ‘divided by’ yet.”

Her classmate, Madison Hunter, said she feels excited about getting to take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which begins in the third grade.

“We did a lot of fun stuff in second grade,” Madison said. “But in third grade you can take the CRCT test and you have to remember things.”

More than anything, Madison said she’s excited she won’t have to come back to school for a few months. She said she’s got some big plans for the summer.


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