Last day of school brings cheers and tears
SALISBURY — On their last day of school, Woodleaf Elementary School kindergartners reflected on the past year in song.
Using hand motions, they sang about back-to-school time, Halloween, November, snowboys and snowgirls, springtime and finally, that most exciting time of all — summer vacation.
Throughout the Rowan-Salisbury School System, students and parents celebrated the end of another school year with graduation ceremonies, performances and parties. Friday was the final day of classes for students in the 2012-13 school year.
After Woodleaf Elementary’s kindergarten showcase Friday morning, Kim Clayton picked up her triplets, Andrew, Michael and Zachary.
They wore special matching shirts all made by Clayton. Each one featured the year 2013 and a silhouette of Mickey Mouse wearing a graduation cap. She and her sons are big fans of Disney.
Like many parents, Clayton spent much of Friday taking photos and videos. But she had a specific reason to document the day as carefully as she could.
Her husband, Charles “Chuck” Clayton, is currently deployed in Afghanistan as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.
“I’d just love to have my husband here,” she said. Later, motioning to her camera and her smart phone, she added, “He’ll hopefully get to see most of it.”
Seeing their sons finish kindergarten means a lot, Clayton said.
“I’m glad that we’ve gotten this far,” she said. “The obstacles that they’ve overcome... it just amazes me.”
She said the triplets were born three weeks early, and their parents were told that Andrew might not even make it. If he did, doctors said he wouldn’t have the same cognitive ability as the other two.
But just the opposite is true, Clayton said.
Andrew said he enjoyed kindergarten, but he’s looking forward to summer vacation. He wants to play in the pool and have fun with his friends.
“I hope the teachers and every person in every class has a wonderful summer,” he said.
Their teacher Dana Milam was tearful as she hugged the triplets and her other students goodbye Friday.
“I’ve touched so many hearts and they’ve touched mine,” Milam said. “We had even more children to love this year, and that’s more children I have to let go of. That makes it even harder.”
Sarah Autry, who shares a combined class with Milam, said this is her first year teaching. That means Friday was her first last day of school.
“I’m excited, but I’m sad that they’re all gone,” she said. “It’s just been a great year, and I loved having all of them.”
Autry is facing her own time of transition — her job is one of dozens that have been eliminated because of budget cuts. The school system says it plans to hire laid-off teachers back as other positions open up.
“Hopefully I can still be here next year,” Autry said.
At Hanford-Dole Elementary School, fifth graders held a graduation ceremony Friday morning and spent the rest of the day celebrating the milestone.
Before they boarded yellow buses for the final time at their school, students in Sally Schultz’ and Kati Earl Etters’ classes held a “dance-off.”
Zahria Bickley said the last day of school is fun, but also sad for her this year.
“I’ll miss everybody,” she said. “I wish everybody good luck at middle school.”
Demaris Worth also said he was feeling sad on Friday.
“I’ll miss my friends and teachers,” he said.
He said he’s a little scared to start middle school, but most of his classmates will be going to North Rowan Middle just like he is.
As the fifth graders made their way toward the buses, Demaris hugged one of his teachers and said, “I can’t do it.”
As Demaris walked outside, Schultz reassured him.
“You’re going to do great, I promise,” she said. “I love you.”
Schultz said the end of the school year came faster than she expected, and she’s not quite ready to say goodbye to her students.
“It’s bittersweet, Schultz said. “I’m ready for a break, but at the same time, it’s hard because I’m not going to see them again next year.”
But the teachers can still see their students in the community and at North Rowan Middle School events, Etters said.
“We form a relationship with these kids that will last forever,” she said.
As the buses circled around the parking lot, students cheered and waved from the windows. Their teachers waved back.
When the final bus left, the teachers broke out into applause and high-fived each other.
After all, they’re starting summer break, too.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.