A cloudless afternoon greeted Newtown Middle School students after the last bell rang on Friday, June 21, signaling the close of the school year at NMS.
Across the district students completed the 2012-13 academic year with a half-day on the first official day of summer.
Buses were waiting outside NMS, some with festive streamers dangling while others had white hearts or sayings, like "Have a great summer," drawn on windows.
Staff lined up quickly following the last bell to wave goodbye and offer well wishes to students as they boarded the bus for the last time this school year.
Dani Gaiser was one of many students who hustled up next to retiring NMS Principal Diane Sherlock.
"I've loved it so much," Ms Sherlock said, both hands full of paper starfish decorated by faculty, staff, and students for her. The starfish is a signature for Ms Sherlock, who is retiring after 14 years as principal at the middle school.
Ms Sherlock said a day has not gone by in the last 14 years that she has not been happy to go to school.
Her time at NMS, she said, was, "The absolute high point of my career."
Ms Sherlock began her career as principal at NMS in the summer of 1999. At the time, the middle school still housed the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.
Before coming to Newtown, Ms Sherlock held a position at a fifth and sixth grade school in Michigan. While there, a group, including then-superintendent of schools John Reed, visited her school while researching the possibility of having a fifth and sixth grade school in Newtown. When Ms Sherlock learned she would be moving to Connecticut due to her husband's job, she contacted Dr Reed.
“[I’ve been] so fortunate to have been able to work with these kids and the staff,” Ms Sherlock said, between waving vigorously as buses pulled out of the NMS parking lot.
Staff and faculty stood outside NMS waving and yelling summer wishes until the last bus departed.