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Bel Air Elementary Bulldogs out for the summer

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Bel Air Elementary School Bulldogs marched out of their classrooms Tuesday afternoon as "Who Let the Dogs Out" played over the school's sound system — a fitting end to the 2011-12 school year. Similar end of the year rituals were repeated across all of Harford County's schools.

Teachers wished the students luck as the kids offered farewell hugs.

In a display case near the entrance to Bel Air Elementary School, a poster read, "Farewell to our class of 2012," along with class photos of each fifth grader, including Rino Biancani.

Rino, a 10-year-old, who had his mom and aunt waiting for him in the lobby, said his school year was "awesome" and was excited to start middle school in the fall.

The fifth grader added that he had a fun year, including a trip toWashington, D.C.where he visited museums and then in school "learning science and social studies."

Kristen Travers, special education teacher, waved goodbye to children on their way out of the school.

"It's hard to say goodbye to them," said Travers, who has worked at the school for 14 years. "We'll see them next year, but you get very attached."

Travers pointed out that it was also the last day for Principal Robin Payne, who is transferring to North Bend Elementary this fall.

Her favorite moment of the year, she said, was when teachers and students attended the Veterans Day parade on Main Street, just a block away from the school, calling it "a very touching moment."

Third grader Justin Parker stood outside of the school with his mom, and BAES kindergarten teacher, Karen Parker.

"I'm feeling happy and say," Justin, 8, said. "I'm sad that I'm going to miss my friends." He added that some friends would be going to different schools — and one in a different country — next year.

He said his year in the third grade was "really fun," commenting on when he and his classmates would clean their desks with shaving cream and stretching every morning to get ready for the day.

Parker, who has been with the school for 15 years, said she loves teaching in the same school her son attends.

"There's a few little perks," she said. Justin chimed in, saying that when he was a baby and his mom was teaching second grade she would take him into the classroom and the students would play with him.

Parker said her favorite day of the school year was the first when she got to meet all of her kids.

"Today was awesome, too," she added. Parker said that her kindergartners made a "memory book" with everything they learned during the year and made a video of each one telling their stories, as well, to go along with the book.

Payne was probably the most popular person that afternoon, however, with teachers and kids stopping her in the lobby to say goodbye, good luck and to give her a hug.

"It's bittersweet," Payne said of her last day as a Bulldog. "It really, truly is an awesome community here."

She said when she became the school's principal seven years ago everyone was "very accepting" and she didn't' feel like the new kid in town just after a month there.

"It's a nice place to be," Payne said. The principal, however, is looking forward to her next home at North Bend and said she would be taking gingerbread house making night — families coming together to make gingerbread houses — to the new school.

In addition to the event, one she's been holding for 32 years, Payne said she would be taking to North Bend, "my love for children and my commitment to learning."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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