Closing the book on a school year


Michael Kopinetz didn't bring his book bag or, for that matter, anything at all to school yesterday. He showed up wearing shorts and a "Boston Red Sox hater" T-shirt.

"No more books, no more math, no more spelling," said Michael, 10, a fourth-grader at Stevens Forest Elementary School in Columbia. "You really don't need anything on the last day of school."

About 47,000 Howard County students from 69 schools are off for the summer. Some will attend summer school, beginning June 27.

But at Stevens Forest yesterday, there were no homework or class assignments to hand in, just gifts to give to teachers and memory books to sign.

The hallway and classroom walls were bare, and books had been packed. The school buzzed with anticipation of the last bell at 12:30 p.m. even before the first bell rang.

Practically singing to a car passing the school, Barbara Leapley, a fifth-grade instructional assistant, said with glee, "It's the last day. Yeah!"

In Wanda Martin's fifth-grade class, her children mingled and talked before their awards ceremony.

Lauren Dawson, 10, is going to miss being among the oldest at her school and is nervous about being among the youngest pupils at Oakland Mills Middle School.

"It's going to be hard going to middle school," Lauren said.

Chiming in, Erika Huber, 11, said: "It'll be worse as a high school freshman."

Will Woodcock, 10, didn't even want to think about next year.

"I just want to go home and play video games all day and not worry about homework," Will said.

At 9:15 a.m., it was time for the fifth-grade assembly. Martin asked the pupils to line up in alphabetical order, as they usually do, but then said, "never mind."

The kids cheered and scurried into a line. They were a little talkative and fidgety. "Try to keep control for a few more hours," Martin told them.

Things were calm and quiet in Ilene Levin's fourth-grade class, except for the occasional cries of "Bingo!" Math bingo was the name of the game.

"N - seven times 10 minus one."

"O - the amount of cents if you had three quarters."

Jenna Pekofsky, 10, scoured her playing card and found the answer.

"Bingo," Jenna cried out. As a winner, Jenna picked her prize, a novel.

The children played for a few more rounds before they headed off to another class. Levin lined them up and said goodbye.

"It has been a remarkable fourth-grade year," she told them. "It'll be that much harder to say goodbye."

Holding a can filled with candy and chocolate, Levin said, "On your way out, as a reminder of what a sweet year it was, take a candy."

The moment was bittersweet for Levin. Yesterday was the last "last day of school" for the teacher, who is retiring after 31 years.

"It's overwhelmingly emotional. I said to someone the other day, 'Going to school was the only thing I've done since I was 3 years old,' " Levin said. "I've lived September to June my entire life."

Even before school had ended, kindergarten teacher Mary Paulus was thinking about her future pupils who attended an orientation last month.

"We're excited to start the new year," Paulus said. "We already met the new students."

Like the big kids, the graduating kindergarteners in JoAnne Mezei's class signed each other's memory book.

The children exclaimed, "Can I sign yours?"

They asked Mezei for her autograph, drew pictures and wrote short messages.

In Annabelle Capino's memory book, Olivia Inskeep, 6, summed it all up.

"I will miss you," Olivia wrote.

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