It was the last day of school Friday at Graham A. Barden Elementary in Havelock, and the first bus riders were gathering in the auditorium.
“Y’all are going to like this,” Principal Marilyn Brown told the youngsters.
Over the speakers came Pharrell Williams’ popular hit “Happy,” and Brown began shaking a leg and waving her arms in the air. Then the students rose to their feet and began dancing and singing.
It might seem crazy, but soon the whole room was in motion with a sea of happy faces.
“That song reminds me that we should be happy about everything,” Brown said. “Whether we are up or down today, we should always be happy.”
Most of the school’s 374 students carried report cards and a handful had long faces after sneaking a peak at their grades, but when the music began, they were all smiles.
“I’m just happy,” said kindergartner Christina Rivens, who said she had learned how to write sentences this year and also learned how to be a first-grader next year.
She was excited about getting out of school for the year.
“I love summer,” Rivens said.
Her older brother, first-grader Joshua Rivens, said the school year was fun.
“I got to do a lot of work. I love my teacher,” he said.
He said he plans to “go in the pool and go to the beach and put my floats on, jump in the pool and go cannonball!”
First-grader Noah Ayala said he liked school this year.
“I had lots of fun because I had all my friends with me, especially P.J.,” Ayala said.
Ayala planned to go to the beach and to Chuck E. Cheese during the summer.
His friend, P.J. Jackson, a fourth-grader, said he planned to take swimming lessons, sleep in his bed and play Lego Batman II.
Third-grader Sarah Ayala said she would miss school during the summer.
“I just like having my friends by my side and my teacher teaching me everything I need to know to go to fourth grade,” she said. “I just like the school. It’s nice. I liked math and fractions.”
As the students rode off in their busses and with their parents, the teachers were left alone.
Exceptional children teacher Jaime Fravor was ambivalent.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” she said. “It makes me tear up especially because I’m transferring next year. It’s hard, because I’ve watched these kids grow.”
Art teacher Kate Radcliff said teachers look forward to seeing the returning students next year but have high hopes for the students moving on to sixth grade.
“We’re going to miss them. We wish them well,” she said.
Brown had the same thoughts.
“For fifth-grade, it’s bittersweet,” she said. “Our fifth-grade students have been here for a long time and so seeing them transition to the middle school is really hard. We love them and wish them the best. I will miss them, but I wish them success at the same time.”