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"On the last day, we party'

A group of sixth-grade girls stood in front of Anclote Elementary School on Wednesday clutching a year's worth of awards and preparing to embark on a long summer of freedom from homework assignments. And every last one of them was inconsolable.

"We'll never see each other again," said 12-year-old Terese Fields, who began sobbing again just thinking about it. Some of the sixth-graders will move to Gulf Middle School next year, while others will attend the new River Ridge Middle School.

"We've been together for sooo loooong," said 12-year-old Jennifer Taylor. She and her classmates had been "best friends for about two or three years."

"We won't be able to be in the same class anymore," Terese added. "We won't be able to talk and send notes in class."

The thought of not talking in class, not sending notes and perhaps improving their conduct marks was no consolation whatsoever.

"This is just terrible," said 11-year-old Brandi Hoyer, starting another round of sobbing and hugging.

Wednesday _ the last day of school _ wasn't such a terrible day for most of Pasco's school children and teachers.

All over the school district, there were celebrations, award ceremonies and general giddiness. Teachers and pupils exchanged small presents. Students scribbled messages on each other's yearbooks, shirts and hands. There were parties for the children whose birthdays fall during the summer.

Third-grade teacher Donna True at Anclote surprised her pupils with a gift of a little bottle of soap and a bubble blower. The class spent the last minutes filling the room with soap bubblesthat made the classroom look like a Lawrence Welk set for pre-teens.

"Yesterday was serious," said 9-year-old Cheryl Boyer. "Most of the year was serious. We learned long division, times tables. The last day of school _ that's party day."

"We had a good year," said 9-year-old Tisha Berg. While her classmates blew bubbles all around her, Tisha spent a few serious minutes looking back on the school year and looking ahead to the next year.

"Next year is going to be fourth grade. I hear it's a lot harder. More homework, more everything."

In Donna Aguis' first-grade classroom, pupils sipped red punch and ate ice cream from tiny tubs. In the middle of the party, 7-year-old Jennifer Clemson summed up the year.

"During the year we did a lot," Jennifer said. The first-grader then looked up to the ceiling as she tried to list all the things she learned this year. "We did math, spelling, science, reading, health, social studies. But on the last day, we party."

"We have some homework to do," said 6-year-old Natalie Bishop, who was finishing her year of first grade. Mrs. Aguis said she handed out some mimeographed worksheets of assignments from the school year. Natalie said she had no definite plans to get to that homework anytime soon.

"I'll save it for a day when it's cold and rainy," she said.