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'Not just hanging out,' last week of school in mid-June is still a busy one in Harford

Teachers and staff at Forest Hill Elementary School were taking the fifth graders through their recognition ceremony exercises Tuesday afternoon, about 72 hours ahead of when they would complete their time as elementary school students and move on to middle school.

The fifth graders sat on the gym floor and stood up in groups, and then when each student's name was called, he or she walked toward a teacher, practiced taking a recognition and shaking hands and then returning to their seats.

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Another school staffer warned each student to avoid stepping on imaginary kindergartners in preparation for the Thursday recognition ceremony in front of their families and classmates.

Principal Tammy Bosley told the students they must stand still, although they can make "eye contact" with their families during the ceremony, which was planned for Thursday.

"You need to be standing still, so they can take your picture," Bosley said.

The preparations for the fifth-grade recognition was one of many end-of the year activities happening at Forest Hill Elementary this week as students and teachers prepared for Friday's final day of the 2014-15 school year for all Harford County Public Schools students, one which began way back on Aug. 25.

Harford public school students will be let out today (Friday) for about 10 weeks of summer vacation. They are scheduled to return to school Aug. 27 to start the 2015-2016 academic year.

Bosley was in her final days leading Forest Hill Elementary. She is transferring to William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary where she'll be that school's principal next school year. Marc Hamilton is replacing Bosley at Forest Hill.

Forest Hill fifth-grade teacher Dori Wittelsberger, who has been teaching in Harford County for 25 years, kept the 20 students in her homeroom busy Tuesday with various projects.

Forest Hill has a total student population of 469.

Wittelsberger said her students have been "very good when it's time to stay focused and do what they have to do."

Fifth graders Violet Kazi, Henry Dippel and Travis Smith, all 11 years old, said they have been taking on multiple end-of-school projects and activities such as board games, writing self-evaluation comments for their report cards and preparing for the fifth-grade recognition ceremony.

"We're not just hanging out," Henry said. "We're assigned to get something done."

Henry and his Forest Hill classmates will be together at North Harford Middle School next year.

"I'm nervous, and also excited," Violet said.

Students in each grade at Forest Hill talked about and showed The Aegis what they have been doing this week as they wrap up the school year, such as fourth graders completing the scrapbooks they have put together documenting each month of the year, third graders completing science projects, second graders writing in their "bare books" and first graders and kindergartners preparing themselves mentally to move on to the next grade.

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Fourth-grader Morgan Arnold, 10, said the scrapbooks include "everything that we did during the school year."

Her classmate Carter Bearinger, also 10, said the final entries will be about their memories of the school year, such as the "funniest thing" their teacher did.

Bosley said students would also have a talent show, picnics and the traditional fifth grade vs. teachers kickball game.

She said that, during the last week, the students have a mix of projects that bring together what they have learned during the year, "and we weave in some of those traditional end-of the-year activities."

Christian Sherman, 6, a kindergartner, noted he has "three more days" until he becomes a rising first grader, and he admitted he was a bit nervous about the new challenges coming his way.

Patrick Cook, 7, who said he finished his last first-grade test Tuesday, reassured Christian.

"The first day was a little hard, but then you get more used to it," Patrick said.

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