With hugs and waves, thousands launch summer vacation


Glen Springs Elementary physical education teacher Fran Berardino hugs students, from left, Evelyn Ragsdale, Azlin Edwards and Megan Godwin at the end of the last school day of the year. Berardino is retiring after 35 years working in various schools in Florida.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 6:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 6:04 p.m.

Ten minutes before dismissal on the last day of school, students at Glen Springs Elementary were putting on their backpacks and the office staff was excitedly getting ready for their annual tradition.

Five of the office staff members gathered at the front desk, crowding around a sheet of song lyrics held by Kym Mobley, senior clerical assistant "and lead singer," she said.

Mobley pressed a button on the intercom and the five women leaned in closer, launching into their personalized rendition of "What Does the Fox Say?"

"Cars go beep, buses go squeak, hands go wave, what do the kids say?" they sang.

"Ring-ding-ding-de-ding-de-ding-ding!"

Principal Nannette Dell said the staff members have been singing re-worked pop songs and nursery rhymes to students on the last day of school since long before she arrived at Glen Springs four years ago.

"We give them a good farewell, and let them know how special they are to us," Mobley said.

Thursday was the last day of the school year for Alachua County's 27,000 public school students. Classes begin anew Aug. 18, but until then it's 10 weeks of sunshine and sleeping in.

While some were excited for summer, other students were sad to be leaving their friends and classmates, sometimes for good.

For Ofelia Crespo, 6, Thursday wasn't just her last day of first grade, but her last day of school in the United States.

She and her family are returning to their hometown in Ecuador in a few weeks, after her father finishes his studies at the University of Florida.

Antonio Crespo and Cristina Palacios waited for their daughter at the front of the school, then spotted her.

Ofelia, sporting long pigtails and carrying a blue bouncy ball given to her by her teacher, said her year was "Amazing."

"Well, first of all, I skipped a math grade," she said. Math and reading are her favorite subjects, but Ofelia said she's also going to miss her teacher, Martha Lee, who gives gifts like the blue bouncy ball to students who do well in her class.

"And that's another thing thing I'm going to miss," Ofelia said.

At Howard Bishop Middle, students started emerging from the front gates at 2:15 p.m.

A couple of girls wiped tears from their pink cheeks as they hugged goodbye for the summer while a few boys darted around them to hop on their bicycles and speed away.

Groups of friends converged on the sidewalk, ambling toward home with their arms slung around each other's shoulders.

A cheer, audible from the street, had gone up from students inside the school minutes earlier, after Principal Mike Gamble's voice on the intercom saying "Go-o-o-o-o Hawks!" signaled the bell for dismissal.

It wasn't planned, 11-year-old Jalen Gordon said. Everyone just started yelling.

"People are just ready to go home," he said.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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