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School ends with pomp, preparation

Kids go to banquets as others hit the books.

Published May 13, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - With the end of the school year just days away, students are gearing up for lazy days at the beach, family vacations and summer camps.

As seniors prepare for their final exams, schools in south Pinellas county have been holding their end-of-the-year award ceremonies and senior banquets.

At St. Petersburg High School, seniors are getting ready for Celebration Sunday on May 20, a longtime annual event for graduating students to reflect on the past four years and show appreciation to their parents.

"We've done this forever. ... It's part of our tradition, kind of like a move-up ceremony, " said senior class sponsor Sandy Hammond.

Seniors at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport recently attended a senior breakfast and a senior picnic, two events the school has sponsored for many years to honor seniors, assistant principal Charles Drake said.

At elementary and middle schools, students have shown off what they've learned this year at spring art shows, spring concerts and student-led end-of-the-year conferences.

Many elementary schools have "move-up" ceremonies planned for fifth-graders, who will start at a new school in the fall.

"It's a way to celebrate the culmination of one thing and the beginning of a new one, " said Karen Russell, principal of Clearview Avenue Elementary in St. Petersburg.

Russell said she'll encourage her fifth-graders to have confidence in themselves as they go on to middle school next year. "If you think you can, you can, and if you always just keep believing, then that's the foundation for succeeding, " she said.

At Bear Creek Elementary in St. Petersburg, students in all grades were invited to a pajama reading party Thursday to start the school's summer reading program. Students could make their own books to take home with them. They also received library card applications.

"The message is getting the books in their hands. That's what we're struggling with, " principal Paula Texel said.

Just less than half of the school's third-graders scored at grade level or above on the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, putting a majority of the third-graders at risk of being held back.

Pinellas County offers summer reading camps to all third-graders who score a Level 1 on the FCAT and struggling second-graders. More than 1, 600 students have already registered for district summer camps, which run May 31 to June 29, Title I supervisor Jana Ham said.

The reading camps offer intensive instruction with a low student-to-teacher ratio for four hours each morning. Teachers attend professional development workshops in the afternoons.

This year, the district also will offer a math and science camp for struggling fourth-graders, Ham said.

But kids will have plenty of other choices this summer, too.

The city of St. Petersburg offers summer play camps at many recreation centers, and the Science Center of Pinellas County has a variety of camps designed for specific grade levels on topics ranging from Florida wildlife and dinosaurs for younger students, to photography and microscopes for older students.

All of the science center camps are aligned with the Sunshine State standards, executive director Madeline McNaughton said.

"Not only will the kids have a fun, hands-on experience, but they'll be getting an education too."

Fast Facts:


Summer reading

For a list of recommended reading by grade level, go to View Caldecott, Newbery and other award-winning titles for children on the St. Petersburg Public Library System Web site, The Main Library, 3745 Ninth Ave. N, will hold a Summer Reading Program kickoff at 2 p.m. June 2. Call 892-5296.


- Limit TV and video games to create time to read.

- Keep books around the house and in the car.

- Make specific reading plans.

- Set goals.

- Keep a reading journal.

- Visit your local library to check out books and attend storytimes.

- Read about a hobby or interest.

- Try a variety of genres and children's publications.

- Play word games.

- Read aloud to younger siblings.

- Start a book series at the beginning of the summer, and read all the volumes.

[Last modified May 12, 2007, 19:09:30]

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