Though he has one more year of high school, Nathaniel Huntington felt as sentimental as a senior Friday when he left Butler High School.
He knows he will never roam the halls again at the Lumpkin Road school.
"It's kind of weird," Nathaniel said. "I've spent my last three years here and I've gotten used to it. I'm thinking about all of the things that have happened here."
Nathaniel is one of 242 juniors at Butler and Hephzibah high schools who had a choice of spending their senior year at their present school or attending Richmond County's new Cross Creek High school next year.
On Friday, as Richmond County students said goodbye to friends for the summer. Nathaniel said goodbye for a much longer period.
"I've got a lot of friends who chose to stay so I'll miss them and some of the teachers," he said.
Of the 108 juniors at Butler who were eligible to go to the new school, 32 decided to stay. At Hephzibah High school, 94 of the 134 juniors will leave.
Nathaniel's sister Shelia is one of the reasons he's leaving Butler. She will be a freshman at Cross Creek next year.
And, because he is zoned for the new school, his mother would have had to drive him back and forth to Butler if he had decided to stay.
There are some benefits to going to the new school, Nathaniel said.
"I want to be in the first graduating class," Nathaniel said. "It will be cool."
Cross Creek, a 98-acre site on Old Waynesboro Road, will open in August.
The $18 million school was built to relieve overcrowding at Butler and Hephzibah high schools, taking about 450 of Butler's students and more than 500 from Hephzibah High.
At Hephzibah High, most of the seniors had begun their summer vacation Thursday, but students lingering around campus Friday said they couldn't wait for the 2:30 p.m. bell to ring.
"I'm very glad to be getting out of here," said Aimee Atwood, a junior who was zoned to continue at Hephzibah High. "And when I come back next year, I'm looking forward to getting to class a lot faster because there will be less people."
Hephzibah High Principal Susan Rogers said closing day went a lot smoother than it began.
A car crash at the entrance of the school sent one student to the hospital for stitches.
"We started the year with two students being killed in an accident, it would have been too much to have it happen at the end of school," Mrs. Rogers said.
And with threats of school violence running rampant the past few months in Richmond County schools -- including a bomb threat at Hephzibah High, Mrs. Rogers was especially glad to see the year end.
"I think kids are pretty much over it," she said, "but we still jump when we hear normal school sounds -- like someone dropping a book."
Richmond County school officials stepped up security measures by having Richmond County Sheriff deputies posted at most of the schools and at least 18 school administrators spent the day roaming school halls. Teachers also rode school buses with students.