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Students, staff welcome summer break
School out till August
Principal Rebecca Johnson hugs Shiloh Elementary students Sri Gogulamudi, left, and Ellie Miltz as classes let out Friday, the last day of the 2011-12 school year. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Talbott Anderson was in tears as she walked toward her bus.

Though she will return to Shiloh Point Elementary as a fifth-grader in a couple months, the last day of the school year Friday was “just really sad for me.”

“I have to leave all my friends,” she said.

Friends aside, Anderson was still excited for the break, though probably not as much as Amy Stern.

“I’m actually getting married this summer,” said Stern, a Shiloh Point fifth-grade special education teacher support staff member.

And when the honeymoon is over, Stern will come back as a third-grade teacher for next school year.

“It doesn’t end on the last day of school,” she said as she waved and high-fived some of her students as they ran out of class. “It’s mixed emotions watching my fifth-graders go to middle school and knowing how much they have changed and grown this year.

“It’s exciting to know they have a lot ahead of them, but it’s sad because I won’t get to see their faces around the school anymore.”

Walking out with his fourth-grade sister Emily and first-grade brother Landon, Aidan Armstrong had a huge grin on his face.

Not only was it the last day of school, but it was his last day at Shiloh Point. Next year, he’ll be at Piney Grove Middle School.

“It’s like you’re happy and sad because you’re done with school here, but you’re having a great time,” he said.

Aidan Armstrong and his fellow fifth-graders had even more to celebrate Friday, as they were the school’s inaugural graduating class. The fifth-graders were the first to start at the school as kindergarteners.

His mother, Sarah helped organize the fifth-grade celebration, which focused on the special group.

But when the event was over and she headed for her car, she said next year will be a new adventure for the whole family.

“Today was officially the last day that all of my children will ever be in the same school at the same time,” she said. “It’s been amazing watching them grow and just really become great kids.

“They’ve all flourished and I’m excited to see what middle school has to hold.”

There wasn’t much excitement at the county’s high schools. By the last day, most of the students had begun their summer vacations.

Denise Eccleston, a counselor at Lambert, said with seniors out earlier in the week, and most students exempted from testing, it didn’t look like much of a celebration.

“It’s really deserted. The halls are kind of empty,” she said. “You walk down the halls and it’s just quiet.”

The lonely hallways make it difficult for teachers and other school staff to get their “goodbyes” in for students who won’t be returning next year. But Eccleston said students and staff make it work.

“We do some things with them where we have a senior breakfast … and during graduation we actually line the stairs so we can actually hug the kids goodbye,” she said. “It is kind of sad that they’re just gone one day. But I’ve had many of them come back to check in and tell us how they’re doing in college.

“It makes my job worthwhile to know you made a difference and they want to come back and want to see you and want to let you know how they’re doing. It lets us know we meant something to them.”

Friday was bittersweet for Principal Ron McAllister, who said goodbye to his students at Vickery Creek Elementary School for the last time.

One of his teachers told him that Vickery was “the place where you started to learn how to be a principal, and you’ll always remember that. I thought that about summed it up,’” he said.

McAllister isn’t going far.

When the 2012-13 school year starts Aug. 9, he will greet students as principal of the new Kelly Mill Elementary. And as he works over the summer to prepare for the opening, McAllister said things at the new school won’t be much different.

“It’s nice to have the break … but after two weeks, we’re just ready to have kids back in the building because school is not a right place without kids in it,” he said. “I’m always ready for them to come back about two weeks after they leave.”

McAllister won’t be the only person working over the summer. He’s joined by principals from across the county and many school system central office employees, including Buster Evans, superintendent.

“We’re wrapping up the year and doing all the things you have to do to close out the year,” he said. “But at the same time, we’ve got our eye on what’s going to be coming up next year as we work on our budget, as we work on staffing, as we plan things such as our leadership retreat and put together the staffing plans.”

Over the summer, the school district will review its strategic plan to prepare for the future and work on filling vacant positions and shifting personnel.

“Some school districts go into a shut-down mode,” Evans said. “That’s the exciting thing about Forsyth County. I don’t think we ever go into shut-down mode. We are always looking to see what we can do to achieve the highest level of education possible.”