MANATEE — He covered his head a few times as students hurled hundreds of water balloons at him, but for the most part, Freedom Elementary School Principal Jim Mennes didn’t put up a fight.
After all, the students had earned it.
Instead of hitting the books inside their classrooms Wednesday — the last day of school — students spent part of their morning splattering their educational leader with water bombs under an outdoor shelter on the school grounds off State Road 64.
It was a reward for students who donated items that were sent to Freedom members serving in the U.S. military overseas. During this year’s troop drive, students shipped more than 25 boxes of items, including beef jerky, playing cards and flip flops, Mennes said.
Kendrick Belony, 7, was one of those students who donated an item and got to sling a balloon at Mennes.
In a scene that would rival a summer beach party, his classmates cheered as the first-grade boy lined up with a handful of other students and fired away.
Just when the students thought the wet ammo had run out, Mennes returned fire. He had a few balloons stuffed into a cooler beneath him.
When it was all said and done, Kendrick said he was excited the school year had come to a close.
“I’ve been working hard at school, I never stopped working all year,” he said.
More than 50 public schools across the district participated in end-of-the-year activities Wednesday.
Across town at Palm View Elementary, fourth-grade students stretched a chain of construction paper around their school, each link representing a completed math objective.
“The kids were excited to see it,” said Dameon Headings, the Palm View math teacher who came up with the idea. “The parents come in for parent-teacher conferences and they were excited to see it, too.”
Math objectives are a part of the Accelerated Math Program, which is made up of 136 objectives addressing subjects from geometry to algebra and long division. Student Tamara Shivailier completed all of the objectives, while her classmates completed about 20 links to make up the 1,000 link chain.
“This is a great idea,” Tamara said. “Maybe teachers will decide to do other subjects, like reading, instead of math.”
Headings said that he is already getting students excited for next year’s chain, which he hopes to stretch across the entire campus.
At Bayshore High School just after noon, Principal David Underhill spoke to students on the loudspeaker during student dismissal.
Underhill told students their report cards would make it home sometime next week and that, whatever their grades, to set higher objectives for the upcoming school year.
Sounding off, he wished them a fun and productive summer.
“Stay safe!” he said.