WEEKI WACHEE — The fifth-graders at Winding Waters K-8 School climbed noisily onto the gym's bleachers just before noon.
Less than two days from the end of school, they were restless, the prospect of summer so close. All those weeks and months at the pool. The vacations. The not being in school.
But first, one more lesson in history.
They had the honor of burying the time capsule that would memorialize the school's inaugural year.
"Think about this very first year as leaders of this school and the memories," principal Dave Dannemiller told the group, his voice bouncing off the gym's walls. "Think about where you are now. The opportunities you've had, the things that you've learned, the friends that you've made."
In fact, they already had.
• • •
A few weeks ago, those students wrote essays about their first year at Winding Waters, a technology-fueled school serving 1,400 elementary and middle school students.
Needed to alleviate overcrowding, it was built for $34 million on U.S. 19 north of State Road 50, next to the district's newest high school.
Teachers chose the best essays from each class and put them in a time capsule.
Twenty years from now, when the capsule is unearthed, it will reveal words like those from 10-year-old Madyson Holop.
She remembered all the way back to the first day of school.
"I felt so happy to be here I could not get the smile off my face," she wrote in her essay, one of four chosen from the fifth grade. "I wanted to do 100 cartwheels, but I held them in so I would not hurt anyone."
She talked of how excited she was to meet her new teacher and of the school's mascot.
"I love being a Yellow Jacket."
At Tuesday's ceremony, she walked into the gymnasium draped in a yellow class shirt with the names of her classmates and teachers scrawled across the back.
What did she like the most?
Her teacher, the school, the field trips. Even the microscopes and school lunches got a mention.
"It was a lot better than the last school," Madyson said.
Jasmine Clarke, 11, who also had her essay picked to go into the capsule, liked walking into the school and seeing how new everything looked.
"It felt amazing," she said. "Everything felt so brand new. It was a new fresh start."
The school will include more than just essays.
Inside the capsule went school pictures and signed T-shirts, awards, slide shows and student surveys.
A school emphasizing technology, they also included a BlackBerry and zip disc.
• • •
Winding Waters still feels like a new school.
The paint is bright, the walls clean and the floors unscuffed.
The teachers use the newest technology. The classrooms are filled with interactive white boards and sound systems. Twenty percent of their library is interactive. Next year, every sixth-grader will get to use an iPad.
"They've exceeded my expectations," said superintendent Bryan Blavatt.
Also mentioning neighboring Weeki Wachee High School, he said, "They have just had fantastic years and openings for schools. That has not always been the case in Hernando County."
He said a lot of that was due to the leadership.
Dannemiller, who has been teaching in the district for 31 years, said the school has more than just energy — it has direction.
"The difference here is that I virtually hired the staff," he said. "I selected staff that shared the vision. You can move a lot faster through the spectrum."
Much of their mission makes heavy use of technology.
"I embraced that as a way to engage students," Dannemiller said.
Aside from some minor problems early on, he said it has been a great first year.
"I just think that we accomplished our goal the first year that we're going to build this positive culture, parent involvement," Dannemiller said. "A place where people feel welcome."
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.