Kamisha Burton didn't have to attend school Friday. The Grovetown High School senior performed well enough academically to exempt her from final exams.
Still, Burton was at Columbia County's newest high school to say a final goodbye.
"I wanted to be able to see my teachers and friends one last time," said the 18-year-old, who will receive her diploma today at James Brown Arena. "I made a lot of new friends this year, and I'm going to miss them."
Burton is part of the school's first graduating class. Last year, she attended Harlem High and, as a senior, had the option to stay there. But a chance to make history proved too much of a temptation.
"It feels great," she said.
Only about 300 of the school's 1,100 students were in classes Friday morning to finish exams.
As Principal Penny Jackson walked the empty hallways, she said it hardly seemed like the end of the year.
"It feels more like the end of the first semester," she said. "This year has gone by so fast, I can't believe it's the last day."
At Euchee Creek Elementary in Grovetown, second-grader Katelyn Kunz was sad her year with teacher Rebecca Walls was over.
"I loved being in Ms. Walls' class, and I loved all the friends I made," the 7-year-old said. "It's been a good year, and I'm going to miss everyone. I wish I could just stay in this class."
Fourth- and fifth-graders from Euchee Creek were recognized Friday for their academic achievements throughout the year. For retiring Principal Wanda Golosky, it marked the end of her career.
"It's kind of bittersweet," said the 37-year educator. "I love being a part of recognizing the students for all their hard work, but it was sad knowing I'd be doing it for the last time."
Also retiring this year is Columbia Middle School Principal Donna Anderson, who has worked in the county school system for 31 years.
"It's hard," Anderson said. "It's been my life ... more than half of my life here."
Anderson worked 28 years at Columbia Middle -- seven as a teacher and the past 21 as principal.
Though she got teary-eyed talking about retirement, she forced a big grin and waved and blew kisses to students leaving on buses.
"It's time for a new chapter," she said.
Reach Donnie Fetter or Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222.
Grovetown High School students stream toward their rides as they leave campus on the last day of school.