The weather Friday -- sunny with a few drops of rain -- was fitting as faculty and students at Shell Point Elementary reveled in one last bash to mark the closing of their school.
"Life Celebration Day" turned the school grounds into a carnival, complete with a giant bounce house, water slides, games, snow cones and balloon animals. Children in kindergarten through fifth grades raced around in bathing suits, basking in the ultimate form of recess, while faculty members laughed and teared up, sometimes at the same moment.
The Beaufort County Board of Education voted in August to close Shell Point at the end of this school year, estimating the closure could save up to $890,000 next school year. The building will be leased to Riverview Charter School for the next two years.
The last day of school at Shell Point is Thursday.
Social worker Alana Tokar said she's "heartbroken" over the decision. She spoke about the pain the decision caused for about two minutes before leaving to fulfill a promise to a student to go down the water slide. Soon, she was soaking wet and laughing with students.
A group of rising fourth-graders gathered around a dunk tank.
Adeline and George Cooler, 9-year-old twins of Shell Point teacher Debbie Cooler, said they're excited to move to fourth grade but agreed another school "won't be as fun as" Shell Point.
"I'll miss this school," Adeline said. George added that other than Friday's bash, hanging out with his teacher was his favorite part of the school year.
The students will be divvied up among other elementary and middle schools next year. Most teachers also will go to other schools in the area.
Switching schools is part of growing up for most kids, physical education teacher Mike Woods said, but it's different for those who teach them.
"The kids are resilient. They'll be okay," he said. "But the teachers here have built some great relationships."
Woods has taught at the school for 25 years. He said he'll teach at Beaufort Middle school next year. His two children attend Riverview and will walk Shell Point's old halls next year.
Woods smiled as he looked around the playground.
"I won't be around when they take the Shell Point sign down," he said. "I don't think I could watch that."
- About half of Shell Point teaching staff to move to Broad River, April 25, 2012
- OCR approves Shell Point closure, fifth grade move to Robert Smalls, Feb. 7, 2012
- School board votes to close Shell Point Elementary next year, Aug. 15, 2011