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First last days at two schools

Last Day of School 2019 from Suffolk News-Herald on Vimeo.

By Jimmy LaRoue, Alex Perry and Tracy Agnew

Staff Writers

The festive last day of school at Col. Fred Cherry Middle School Thursday embodied many of the good vibes that came with the opening of a brand new school.

The day’s liveliness, filled with food and games, carried over until the end, with students racing out to their buses for the final time this school year, stopping to hug each other and their teachers along the way.

Teachers greeted them outside with bubbles, songs and many smiles as they waved to the students hanging out of the buses, many of them waving back and taking selfies with their smartphones.

The one-and-done eighth graders said goodbye to middle school for the final time as they make their way to high school. Sixth- and seventh-graders were saying goodbye until the fall.

Those who will be rising ninth-graders said they loved being in a new school all year long, but were ready to move forward.

Nilah Brown, Jayson Nicolas and Rhian Diggs, who will all be attending Nansemond River High School in the fall, said they would enjoy getting more freedom than they had in middle school.

And after the last buses pulled out, teachers gathered around principal Dr. Shawn Green, and assistant principals Dana Bilby and Marian Looney-Gill, congratulated each other on a great first year, and then sprayed silly string on their administrative team.

“The first year was very successful,” Green said. “Kudos to all of our staff, our teachers in making sure we got through the school year…showing student growth, continuing to grow student achievement, so overall a successful year. We look forward to planning this summer and moving forward and planning for the next school year.”

Special education teachers Tameka Holland and Cynthia Hedberg said it was very exciting to be in the new building this year and described the last day as bittersweet — filled with joy for their students’ progress, and sadness in saying goodbye.

For Holland, who teaches sixth- and seventh-grade English and math, it marked her first year as a teacher after previously being a teacher’s assistant at John Yeates Middle School. Hedberg, who teaches sixth-grade English, came to Col. Fred Cherry from Elephant’s Fork Elementary School.

But the buoyant feeling of the last couple of days was, to sixth-grade English teacher Jenifer Hunter, symbolic of the daily atmosphere at the new school.

“It’s just been a really good first school year,” Hunter said.

It was a Thursday afternoon of hugs, cheers and noisemakers at Florence Bowser Elementary School as nearly 800 students boarded their rides to summer vacation.

Students were smiling wide as they walked out of the school. Their teachers blew bubbles, shook noisemakers and hollered as they celebrated their students’ successful first year of classes at their new elementary school. Some even had funny glasses big and small.

“We’re excited to be the first staff that’s opening the new Florence Bowser Elementary School,” said Principal Melodie Griffin. “It has been a wonderful journey (and) a wonderful experience.”

Children ran to their buses — but many stopped to hug and say goodbye to their teachers first. Others stuck their heads out of the buses to wave at the lineup of happy faculty and parents on the sidewalk.

“We had a successful first year, so we were excited to send the students off with lots of energy — and lots of noise — just to say congratulations for a job well done for year one at Florence Bowser,” Griffin said.

It wasn’t the first last day of school at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, but the enthusiasm was still evident as students left the building for their buses.

Members of the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office, a Partner-In-Education with the school, were on hand to give fist bumps and high-fives. Students were encouraged to have a safe summer, and Sheriff E.C. Harris encouraged all of the students to “read a book.”

Teachers walked their students all the way to their buses, and they gathered at a corner of the bus loop to wave goodbye — and then let out a cheer.