As smoke from the fire burning south of Soldotna filled the sky Wednesday, smiles and laughter from students ready for summer brightened the halls, classrooms and playgrounds of area schools.
At Skyview High School, students spent the last day maneuvering among boxes, pallets, chairs, desks and classrooms turned inside out as staff at the school prepare to move into other buildings in Soldotna.
Skyview will be converted to a middle school during the 2014-15 school year while current students will be sent to Soldotna High School and a new freshmen-only school in Soldotna.
“I’m not happy about it,” said sophomore Tralessa Mahan.
She and Chris Casares, sophomore, roamed the hallways of Skyview picking up trash and helping teachers move.
As Mahan hauled a yellow, wheeled trash can behind her, she jumped up onto a cart that Casares was pulling and the two laughed as they made their way to the school’s elevator, dodging stacks of boxes and other students.
“We don’t know where we’re going to be next year,” Mahan said. “My older brother graduated from here. My dad graduated from here.”
Later that day firefighters would be using the emptied school to establish a central command station to combat the Funny River fire.
The last inning
Under the clear sky, not yet clouded by wildfire smoke, Junior, Melissa Roza lay sprawled on her stomach watching the annual Senior versus Teacher softball game on the fields behind Nikiski High School.
“This year was stressful,” Roza said. “But it went by fast. I am excited to get to play this game next year.”
Roza said she and most of her classmates have watched the game every year. Every year she listens to the seniors boast about their impending vistory against the teachers.
So far Roza hasn’t seen it pan out. She said the only way to win is to practice before hand, and plans to make sure she is ready.
“The teachers play every year,” Roza’s friend Mikaila Colton said. “So they’re better.”
Seniors Gage Carmody and Cory Carr chose seats for the game inside the chain link fence, behind home base.
The teachers were winning by a large margin, Carmody said with a laugh. Even if the entire graduating class of 36 students had shown up, everyone would get a chance to play, he said.
The five students all lamented on leaving their classmates and teachers at Nikiski.
Junior Cassidy Costello said in the last year alone her instructors had inspired her career path, which is to become a teacher.
Going out with a splash
Kenai Middle School students spent their last day having it out in games of four-way tug-of-war, Frisbee, soccer and basketball.
The but the most popular end-of-the-year activity by far was the dunk tank.
Students from different grades quickly volunteered to watch as their peers threw softballs at the contraptions’ target.
Eighth grader Brittany Gilman wasn’t expecting to get drenched when she left for school in the morning.
“I wore my favorite jeans today,” Gilman said with a laugh, after getting dunked.
The suspense was the worst part, Gilman said.
“It’s a good way to end the year, with a splash,” Gilman said.
A bubbly goodbye
By afternoon Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science students were roaming the halls with dried mud on their faces and clothes, a result of their final day spent at the beach.
Third grader Malena Grieme said she plans to spend her summer days getting just as dirty.
Leif Niichel, a sixth grader, said he had fun in the mud at the beach. His favorite part of the school year was making goo in science lab.
While the older students were at the beach, kindergarteners sang songs about friends in front their families and received graduation certificates.
Kindergarten teacher Robyn Zinszer said the end of the year can be difficult because the students and their parents or guardians became your family.
“These grown ups give me their children for seven hours a day,” she said. … “You are the mama bear.”