Free for the Summer

Free for the Summer

Students complete the 2005-06 school year.

High school seniors aren't the only recent graduates in Potomac with reason to celebrate. After enduring the stress of final exams, about 400 eighth-graders at Hoover Middle recently let loose with an extravagant end-of-school celebration.

During their 45-minute bon voyage, students snacked on popcorn and Dippin' Dots ice cream, scooted down an inflatable slide, jumped on a giant "Moon Bounce" attraction and showcased their moves on the "Dance, Dance Revolution" video game. They also watched the World Cup on television and signed yearbooks.

That night, the middle school graduates were treated to a school dance. On Wednesday, they attended King's Dominion, an amusement park near Richmond, Va.

WITH SO MUCH partying, did behavior become a problem?"No, they've been fabulous," said English teacher Karla Yager at the outdoor celebration. "They know King's Dominion is coming, so they definitely want to be on their best behavior."

"Last week was horrible, evil finals week," said eighth-grade graduate Ellery Weil. "It's definitely good to know exams are over."

"I'm gonna come back and visit ya'll," one teen promised her friends as school buses pulled up to take the students home after the festivities.

"Everyone's nostalgic, like 'This is the last time I'll see you again until tomorrow at Churchill [High]," Weil quipped.

Though Churchill High is less than a mile away, the transition to ninth-grade can be daunting.

"I'm excited, but also kind of worried about going to high school," said eighth-grader David Kim. "It's a totally different place."

"I'll miss some things, but I'm more excited about high school because there's more freedom," said eighth-grader Dani Capon.

On the last day of school, the eighth-grade students got serious again with a trek to Churchill High, where they met their future teachers.

ABOUT 100 STUDENTS at nearby Beverly Farms Elementary celebrated their passage into middle school with a "clap out." Graduating fifth-graders marched through the hallways one final time while younger students cheered them on. The tradition has been going on for at least nine years.

"All fifth-graders process through the building and the rest of the school stands out in the hallway, lining the walls and clapping for [the fifth-graders] as they go through the school and get on the bus to go to graduation," said school secretary Bernardine Matelis. "It's a goodbye from the rest of the school to all the fifth-graders."

The proud students headed with their families to nearby St. Andrew's Episcopal School for a formal graduation ceremony.

Parent Renette Belizaire waited outside the school's auditorium while the students, including her daughter Kia Saint Louis, prepared for the event.

"I remember when she first started kindergarten," said Belizaire. "It's amazing to see her graduate to middle school.

"We're very happy for her," she continued. "She's done very well and we hope she'll continue that way," During the ceremony, her daughter was honored with a "gold award" for academic achievement.

MARIA AND BARRY Watkins attended the graduation of their son Pickle.

"He's got a mohawk," said Maria with a laugh. "He's very memorable."

Several educators at Beverly Farms have made an impression on the family, particularly fourth-grade teacher Tracey Gault.

"My son has learning disabilities, and Ms. Gault was spectacular with him," said Maria Watkins. "Pickle sometimes got discouraged at school, but Tracey was very compassionate, and gave very individual, patient care."

Principal Beth Brown spoke to the graduates about the importance of making good decisions in their middle school years and beyond. Several students were selected to give remarks.

"I have special memories from Beverly Farms … and I've had fantastic teachers along the way," said fifth-grader Siobhan Wert. "During elementary school I have learned a lot —to read, write and do math… Now I am ready for my next adventure."