The last graduating ceremonies for two elementary schools to be closed in a district hit by declining enrollment were held Thursday.
Dozens of students and hundreds of people gathered Thursday at the moving-up ceremonies for fifth-graders from Forest Park and Chestnut Hill elementary schools in the Half Hollow Hills school district.
"Forest Park is the only school home I ever knew," said 10-year-old Temilolu Adeola.
The board of education voted in October to close two of the district's seven elementary schools because of declining enrollment districtwide. The move drew both anger and sadness from parents. A group of Forest Park residents have appealed the board's decision to the state education commissioner's office, which is still being reviewed, according to state education officials.
Students, teachers and administrators were redistributed throughout the remaining five elementary schools. The closures saved the district about $3 million, officials said.
Even though she's sad her former school is closing, Temilolu said she is excited for middle school next year and is looking forward to new teachers and having a locker. She said she will miss her teachers most.
"If you didn't know something, they would be there for you," she said.
Forest Park's fifth-grade students had their moving-up ceremony Thursday morning at Candlewood Middle School, where they will attend school next year.
Fifth-grade teacher Debra Herbert is going to Vanderbilt Elementary School next fall, about 1.5 miles from Forest Park, where she worked for about 18 years.
Herbert, 45, said she is sad about the closure, but she is "ready to move on to new things. . . . one door closes and another one opens."
A few hours later, Chestnut Hill's fifth-grade students gathered at West Hollow Middle School for their ceremony.
Samantha Rosenberg, 11, was surrounded by her family after she graduated. Samantha said she looked forward to different classes at the middle school, but was sad that she won't be able to visit her former elementary school.
Her mother, Beth Rosenberg, said the day was "bittersweet."
"We had an amazing experience at Chestnut Hill," Rosenberg said. "They made it very special for the kids this year. . . . The experience was exactly as it should have been, even when there was so much going on in the district."