The party bus drew some curious onlookers as the Chief Kanim Middle School parking lot filled on the last day of school June 18, but it was the yellow school buses that got all the attention when the parking lot emptied out again.
Blasting their horns as staff members waved, the buses filed out of the lot, sending more than 700 students off for the summer. A few minutes later, the black party bus had a more subdued departure, but only because you couldn’t see through the tinted windows.
Inside, a group of 14 girls, eighth graders and friends since Kindergarten, were already dancing and chattering away about their day’s adventure.
“They’re all going off to high school,” said Chris Butler, one of the moms who arranged the special middle school send-off for the girls. Their itinerary for the day included a visit to the Fremont troll, Pike’s Place Market, specifically the gum wall, and other Seattle landmarks, and ended at a frozen yogurt shop on Snoqualmie Ridge. Two especially brave Moms, Terry Boyle and Sarah Barnes, went along as chaperones.
Once the buses were gone and the exhausted teachers were cleaning out their rooms, there was still an impressive collection of orphaned art projects assembled in the Chief Kanim Middle School commons. All were colorful and creative, but some were especially eye-catching. Staffers admired some of the pieces, including a hand sculpture painted with the Space Needle at sunset. A student spent days making the piece, but didn’t remember to take it home.
Not all of the pieces were forgotten, though. Kassi Winter, who just finished sixth grade, took just under a minute to find her project, a painted clay box that she is planning to give as a gift.
“We started with balls of clay and tried to make them square,” she said of her project. “It was actually really fun!”
Winter was going on a camping trip with friends to celebrate the end of another school year, and wanted to make sure she had her gift at hand.
Connor McLain and Trevor Adkinson, seventh graders, were some of the last students to leave Chief Kanim Middle School on the last day, but then, they had good reason to stay. As they were cleaning out their own lockers, teacher Jared Carter offered them a job.
“They’re not all empty,” Carter said, pointing down the hallway lined with red lockers, doors hanging open.
If the boys agreed to stay and clean out the lockers, he promised them pizza. It was a deal.
Opstad’s big last-day blast
The desks were empty, all backpacks were off their hooks. It was time.
Sharon Reorda lined up her first graders, gave them some last-minute advice, and everybody got a final embrace.
“On the last day, it’s OK to give your best friend a nice little hug,” said Reorda.
These students had done a lot last year. They’d grown as readers and writers. They’d learned how to spell an important word: “Because.”
“I don’t want you to be sad,” Reorda told the group. “I want to celebrate the fact that we have finished first grade. We’re well on our way to second grade.”
She reminded them that she’ll still be here, in Opstad’s Room 10, when summer turns to fall.
“So where are you coming to visit next year?”
With that, these future second graders marched out of the room, and outside to waiting buses. Opstad Elementary’s send-off was an all-school party. Beach Boys music rolled through the grassy grounds in front as children and teachers blew bubbles, signed autographs, colored their names in chalk, and finally waved goodbye.
Mark McConnell, Opstad’s PE teacher, had a brace of bubble wands at the ready.
He will miss the kids, but “it’s a two-way street…. It’s definitely nice to have a break.”
“I’m going to miss all the teachers and all my friends,” said Deliah O’Brien, as she toted her artwork to the bus. “And I’m gonna miss everybody here, even Mr. McConnell.
This is going to be the best day of my life: It’s summer!”
Over the next 10 weeks, she plans to learn about solving puzzles and have a “cool adventure” at her grandmother’s house.
Back inside the school building, it’s time to clean, straighten and prepare for the next year.
“We start getting it ready tomorrow for September,” said Opstad Principal Amy Wright. “We had several teachers retire this year, so we have a lot of new staff members coming.”
When the last bus honked and rolled away, teachers sighed. A mixture, perhaps, of relief, nostalgia and the realization that another school year has indeed come to end.
The last song that played over the intercom: “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper.
Katherine Herbers writes her name in chalk in front of Opstad's entrance.
Sharon Reorda gets a group hug from her outgoing first graders.
Crossing guards Hailey Harpel and ValRhee Hazen sign off on their last afternoon.
On bus: Sydney Whitely, Damian Wall, and Ray Roiger wave farewell.
Opstad Elementary student Jack Williams pumps his fist out the bus window as it rolls out.
Bubble gum blowers Finley Waites and Kimmy Peña take part in a last-day contest in Marianne Bradburn's room.
Theresa Bothell, an instructional assistant at Opstad, wows Philip Hale, Jack Barnes and Christian Sample with bubbles.
A teacher holds up one eye-catching art project among dozens left behind by students at Chief Kanim Middle School.
Kassi Winter spots her forgotten art project, a clay box, among the student works left behind on the last day of school.
Teacher Jared Carter talks with Connor McLain about staying after school to clean out the student lockers.
Outgoing eighth graders from Chief Kanim Middle School, Tayla Forgey, Isabel Boyle, Taylor Mason, Connor Baxter (he was allowed in the photo, but not on the trip), Drew Butler, Dana Kenow, Trinity Polster, Amber Colvin, Ashlyn Dunn, Chloe Cosgrove, Elizabeth Everett, Isabel Perez, Rebekah Corichi, and, in the doorway, Emilee Boyle and Emma Williamson, celebrated their last day of school with a limo trip to Seattle landmarks.
Mom Sandra Harkelroad, photobombs the group photo of eighth grade girls on a party bus at Chief Kanim Middle School.
Students used the projector to write a farewell message to a teacher on the last day of school.
As the final bell sounded, Chief Kanim students bolted for their buses and their first minutes of summer vacation.
Chief Kanim teachers and staff wave good-bye as buses stream out of the school parking lot June 18.