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It's the last, last day for several Columbia County schools

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The end of school in Columbia County had greater significance this year for five county schools, and it was the last day of Charles Nagle’s class visits as the boss.

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Pupils celebrate the last day of school at Bel Air Elementary School, which will be closed.  VALERIE ROWELL/STAFF
VALERIE ROWELL/STAFF
Pupils celebrate the last day of school at Bel Air Elementary School, which will be closed.

As the retiring school superintendent left his house Tuesday morning, Nagle’s wife told him, “have a wonderful last, last day,” he said. He spent the day visiting county schools, “trying to feel the love,” he said.

“I’ve realized that rather than being over-emotional because it’s the end, I realized how blessed I am to have chosen this profession,” Nagle said. “Hopefully, I’ve been a positive influence on a few lives.”

Emotions ran the gamut across the county, especially for four of the county’s schools that are packing up to move – and Bel Air Elementary, which officially closed.

Bel Air’s population will be distributed to the new, larger Evans and Martinez elementary schools, and Martinez will occupy Bel Air’s campus next year as its school is built. Bel Air’s campus likely will be sold after Martinez students move back to their campus.

“We’re trying to focus on fun, not sad,” Bel Air teacher Joy Hoover said Tuesday as she signed yearbooks for students. “It’s a sad day, too.”

Teachers gathered on the front lawn to sing through tears as the last bus carrying students pulled away. The sing-a-long ended in a group hug.

First-grader Christina Medina, 7, will be attending second grade at the new Evans Elementary School next year.

“I’m sad that I’m leaving here,” Christina said as she enjoyed the last few moments on the Bel Air playground with her friends. “But I’m glad I’m going to the new school.”

In addition to those moves, the Columbia County Alternative School will relocate to the vacant Evans Elementary.

“It’s so bittersweet, but it’s definitely exciting,” said Ja’Net Bishop, the alternative school principal. “We’re so looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great opportunity to have our students in a centralized location.”

They’re also eagerly anticipating amenities that other schools take for granted.

“We’ll have a lunchroom and a gym,” Bishop said. “For us to have a cafeteria and gym after nearly 20 years in existence, we just feel so blessed and fortunate.”

Columbia Middle School Principal Steven Cummings also is looking forward to his school’s move to its new campus on William Few Parkway.

“To be leaving this building is kind of emotional and at the same time kind of exciting,” Cummings said. “We’ve had our last cafeteria lunch. It’s like we’ve had a culmination of a lot of lasts this year – that part has been pretty exciting.”

The moves now will begin in earnest.

“It’s going to be an interesting summer,” Bishop said. “A lot of jumping around with all the transitions going on in Columbia County schools.”


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