Jarrettsville Elementary School fifth graders received the school’s traditional “clap out” as staff, parents and other students lined the hall, applauding and cheering as the fifth graders left for the final time on the last day of school Friday.
“We want their last walk out of Jarrettsville to be positive and purposeful and [to know] that we care about them,” Principal Kathy Garafola said as parents gathered at the front entrance and teachers and staff acquired pom-poms and noisemakers.
Schools throughout Harford County let out for summer vacation Friday. The first day of school for the 2018-2019 school year will be Tuesday, Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day.
Garafola got on the school’s public address system at dismissal and wished students “a wonderful summer” and said staff look forward to having the kindergartners through fourth graders back in the fall.
Jarrettsville has about 418 students in kindergarten through fifth grade and about 50 staff, according to Garafola.
Kindergarten through fourth grade students were dismissed first, and they beamed with smiles as they walked through the halls, getting hugs from the principal, teachers and staff before boarding their buses.
“No more school!” one boy shouted.
The celebration reached its zenith as the fifth graders came through, with parents, staff and younger students in the hall and at the front entrance, cheering, blowing noisemakers and shaking the pom-poms. It was their last day as students and JES, and most will be headed to North Harford Middle in September.
Many students boarded the buses, while others gathered with their families outside.
Matthew Chambers, 11, of Jarrettsville met with his parents, Hilda and Matt, and 2-year-old sister Elizabeth, also known as Ellie.
“I think it was great, I didn’t expect that many people,” he said of the clap out. “I really like it — I like the kazoos.”
Matthew will attend North Harford Middle next school year.
He said he will miss many of the teachers at Jarrettsville, especially his homeroom teacher, Gretchen Lindsey. She came out and greeted Matthew’s parents.
“Thank you for all your support and love,” Lindsey said as she hugged Hilda Chambers.
Lindsey completed her final year at Jarrettsville — she will teach middle school English-language arts next year, according to Garafola.
Matthew attended Jarrettsville Elementary starting in the third grade, after his family moved to the area from Baltimore County. His mother said he has succeeded academically, earning a U.S. presidential award for academic excellence, plus he played cello in the string orchestra and lacrosse and basketball.
“We’re very pleased with it,” Chambers said of the elementary school. “He has exceeded all of our expectations by far.”
Matthew, who has been through an orientation at North Harford Middle, said he likes how middle school is organized, with specific teachers for specific subjects, and more extracurricular activities, beyond those offered in elementary school.
A few fifth graders were in tears as they made their final walk through Jarrettsville Elementary as students.
Garafola, the principal, acknowledged their elementary experience is ending, “but we’re also celebrating their moving into their next chapter and adventure in their journey.”
She outlined the programs in place to help students with the transition to middle school. The fifth graders have visited their middle schools with their teachers and a school counselor.
“We have articulated with the middle school teachers, so they know a little bit about each one of our children that are coming in,” Garafola said.
Information has also been provided to parents, and they have been invited to tour area middle schools “so they too know the adventure their children are embarking on,” she said.
There will be a program for students and parents later in the summer “that does a lot to help them overcome any anxiety they may have,” Garafola said.
Garafola has been Jarrettsville’s principal for four years — she has been a teacher and later an assistant principal at Fountain Green Elementary School and Red Pump Elementary School, both in the Bel Air area — and she has known the fifth graders since they started second grade.
“It is really rewarding to see how they’ve grown and blossomed and matured,” she said.
Parent Ella Spice, of Jarrettsville, celebrated her son Luke’s last day Friday. Her oldest son, Ross, completed his time at Jarrettsville Elementary School last year, and both boys will be students at North Harford Middle next year.
Spice became emotional knowing both of her children have finished elementary school.
“Now there’s no more babies . . . I’m happy for them, but it’s emotional, too,” she said.
Spice, 44, attended Jarrettsville in the late 1970s and early ‘80s and recalls seeing her fifth-grade teacher, Lynn Blom, when she brought her oldest child for kindergarten.
“It’s still the same school, the same feel,” she said.
Jennifer Olszewski, an inclusion helper who has worked at Jarrettsville for a year and a half, attended 35 years ago. She experienced her first clap out Friday.
“Such great energy, and it’s nice to be part of a small [community] where everyone is so close,” Olszewski said.
The Pylesville resident has three children who attend Norrisville Elementary School.
“There’s no place like Jarrettsville,” she said, echoing this year’s “Wizard of Oz”-based theme.
“It’s just nice to have that small hometown feel,” she said. “The camaraderie, the caring and concern, support and expertise that everyone here has is just amazing.”
Garafola resides in Jarrettsville, and her two daughters attended the elementary school. Both have since completed graduate school, “and they are well on their way.”
“I can say that Jarrettsville prepared them well,” she said.
The school will remain open during the summer, with the principal and school secretary present. Custodial staff will do a “deep clean” of the entire building as part of the extensive preparations for the first day of school, Garafola said.
“There is a lot of planning and preparation that is put in place on everyone’s part before the children even walk in the door,” she said.