Emotions ran high Tuesday as the faculty, students and community celebrated the last day of school at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, set to be demolished this fall and rebuilt.
The graduating fifth-graders, who Principal William Campbell said were beginning their metamorphosis from Fair Street Tigers to Gainesville Red Elephants, gathered outside the front office to ring the school bell, a graduation tradition for the last 10 years.
"We are the tigers, the mighty, mighty tigers," the class of 2018 sang, joined by their teachers and parents, many of whom are Fair Street alumni.
Fifth-grader Daniela Hernandez tearfully said goodbye to her teachers and friends after ringing the bell. Parents cried, excited for their children growing up, but sad to see the end of an era.
Even some of the boys teared up.
"It's been a lot of ups and downs," fifth-grade teacher Jessica Miller said. "It's sad to see them go, but we're really excited about the new school."
Miller was one of many teachers and administrators who loaded Fair Street students onto buses amid a water bottle fight, the song "Celebration" blaring over the loudspeakers and lots of cheers.
"I keep saying, ‘I'm going to see you guys tomorrow,' but I'm not," said fifth-grade teacher Brenda Colbert. "Today is two goodbyes."
Colbert is retiring after being a Fair Street teacher to the "Colbert Crew" for 34 years. She also attended the school as a child.
Alize Watson was one of the Colbert Crew this year.
"It's sad. We've been cleaning out our desks," the fifth-grader said. "I'm glad I'm going, but I can't wait to see the new school."
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, a former Fair Street teacher and principal, said community leaders met with the new Fair Street architects Monday night to discuss building plans.
"There's a sense of disbelief for me," she said. "I always knew we needed to do something, but I thought it would be major renovations. And now I see everyone with their boxes all packed up."
Campbell called this final day of school "nostalgic."
"Just this morning I had a student come up to me and say, ‘Mr. Campbell, I am a fourth generation Fair Street student,'" he said. "It's kind of cool that we have the privilege to be part of this."