The smell of summer vacation is in the air. And students at Severna Park Elementary were eager to take it in.

In most classrooms, yesterday's final day of school was marked by flowers and gifts showered on favorite teachers and desks covered with pizzas and snacks.

Throughout the school, hugs and excitement greeted the close of another school year. A group of students sat in the principal's officewaiting for a pizza delivery, while parents dropped off gifts for teachers. School secretaries Pat Striffer and Sandie Castle were showered with brownies, flowers and cards.

"I like school, but it's justthat it uses too much of your brain," 8-year-old Mattie Larkin said as he watched the clock. "I won't miss the homework, because it uses up most of your time if you have a lot."

The second-grader could barely control his excitement as he rattled off plans for sports camp,beach trips and other "fun things."

But for one last day, for just a few hours more, he had to take his usual seat among Judi Gunther's second-grade class. The students were engaged in a heated game of math bingo.

"We try to keep it light and use activities where they can be more involved," said Gunther, who faced the challenge of keeping her students' interest.

Just a few hours more.

She kept students busy with writing assignments about summer plans and a science activity where they were told to clap each time she named an item madeof paper, wood or glass.

All that did help get their minds off the clock.

But then it was 11:45 a.m. -- fifteen minutes before the year-ending class picnic. Classroom anxiety rose again.

"Where arewe going?" "What are we eating?" "What will we sit on?" "What will we play?"

In another part of the building, sixth-graders and kindergartners were receiving certificates of achievement at graduation ceremonies.

Five-year-old Jessie Hall sang songs and reviewed the items her kindergarten class would place in a time capsule. Already, shehas made plans for summer.

"I am going to the pool and on vacation with Daddy," she said.

Nearby, 37 sixth-graders -- girls in bright dresses and wearing large bows in their hair, boys with their shirts tucked in neatly -- sat restlessly as their parents kept busy photographing and taping their every move.

Ironically, the sixth-graders' leap into middle school will only mean turning down a different hallway, since the elementary school currently shares a wing of Severna Park Middle. But students say the change is no less significant.

"I feel older going to middle school," 12-year-old Jeanne Centofantisaid. "It will be really different, switching classes and getting lost the first day."

Before the students began their final procession, Michael O'Malley and Christopher Maynard reminded the audience of what lies ahead:

He is awkward and clumsy.

He is graceful and poised.

He is ever changing,

But do not be annoyed.

What is amiddle schooler?

I was asked one day.

He is the future unfolding.

So do not stand in the way.

And the celebrations did not end with graduation. Principal Anita Murray said her farewells after six years as principal and 23 years in county schools.

"You end one thing only to begin something else," Murray said.

By 3 p.m., students who weren't graduating had their eyes focused on the gold envelopes on their teachers' desks -- report card time.

"I get A's, but Idon't like school," second-grader Matthew Swartout, 8, said. "I'm thinking about the money I get for my report card -- and yelling, 'We're out of here!' "

At 3:30 p.m., when the line of seven school buses pulled up, Matthew did just that.

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