GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Usually the last day of school for summer vacation is a celebration for students, but at Gaston Point Elementary in Gulfport, Friday was somber for staff members because it was the last day forever.
Administrators and teachers hope the legacy that the school is leaving will last long after the doors are closed.
This was supposed to be a pack-up day for the school’s art class, but the students turned it into one last lesson in how to make slime.
“I’m going to miss this school,” said fifth-grade student Zy’shawna Brown.
She came here as a kindergartener.
“We’ve been through a lot in this school, and it’s a bunch of memories in this school that we just don’t want to leave behind,” she said.
To some of the younger students, moving to West Elementary has been the happy talk of the week, but the staff is having a little harder time.
“It was pretty somber moment for all of us,” said principal Shawn Butler. “Even this week it’s been a lot of tearful eyes and difficult times.”
The school was closed because of a decline in student population, and Superintendent Glen East said that closing the school will save the Gulfport School District more than $740,000.
Kindergarten teacher Ava Conley agreed it’s a bittersweet moment.
“It’s bitter because we will miss our small, tight-knit faculty and staff and the students,” she said. “That’s my main concern because we are a small community school.”
However, going to West, she said, will be good.
“That’s a sweet thing because we’ll still have that community, just in a bigger setting," she said.
One of Conley’s favorite memories? A chat with a fourth-grade student.
“He came to me and said, ‘You really care,’” she said. “And that made the difference in my life today.”
Art teacher Tim Thompson started his career here in 1997.
“I’ve been here so long,” he said. “Going from my home to this school for over 20 years, it’s like a second home. It’s like me losing a home.”
He said at least he’ll have the memories.
“All the artwork that the kids give me,” Thompson said. “Everything they give me I just - good or bad - I plaster it in my room. It’s memories. And I’m going to take ‘em all with me. I’m going to take ‘em down and cherish them forever.”