Jackson Main School fifth-graders, from left, Geraldine LaFosse, Edita Quinteros...

Jackson Main School fifth-graders, from left, Geraldine LaFosse, Edita Quinteros and Raheem Willis show their artwork depicting plans for summer. (June 20, 2011) Credit: Nancy Borowick

More than three dozen Long Island fifth-graders spent their final week of elementary school preparing for one of the most highly anticipated moments of the year: the start of summer vacation.

Mary Bernhard's class at Chippewa Elementary School in Holtsville read letters from pen pals and threw Bernhard a surprise party, while Leigh Hendrick's students at Jackson Main School in Hempstead wrote letters to next year's class.

Chippewa ended classes Thursday; Jackson Main on Friday.

Images of purple skies, rainbow sunsets, apple-tree-filled parks, bowling lanes, amusement parks and dolphins diving in Caribbean blue waters danced in their heads and then on drawings they created just days before to depict their summer vacation plans.

"What I like most about summer is the freedom," said Mason Pekar, 11, who attends Chippewa. He will go to Boy Scout sleepaway camp but plans to spend his first day of vacation relaxing at home in Farmingville. "I'm excited and not nervous at all about middle school, because I have three older siblings who will tell me what I need to know and do."

Debbie Alfaro, 10, of Hempstead, who will visit her aunts and cousins in El Salvador this summer, has mixed emotions about becoming a sixth-grader. "I'm excited about learning new things and changing classes, but I'm also kind of shy and nervous about meeting new people," she said.

A classmate at Jackson Main reminisced. "I'm going to miss the fun activities and festivals that we had in Ms. Hendrick's class, especially the Harry Potter festival, which is when we got the chance to watch Harry Potter movies for the whole day," said Oscar Mancia, 11, of Hempstead.

They may be out of sight, but they won't be far from their teacher's mind.

"I feel like I'm letting my babies go," said Hendrick, who has spent 25 years in the classroom, 16 of them at Jackson Main. "They have made so much progress during this school year."

Hendrick, who will bask in summer vacation's first day by "sitting under an umbrella at the beach and reading James Patterson's new book," said she will later head to Italy for 21/2 weeks.

Bernhard will stay close to home, fondly remembering her young Chippewa charges.

"This has been one of my favorite classes," said Bernhard, who will spend the summer with her four young children. "And it has some phenomenal artists."

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