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Bye, Beach Elementary

Beach school graduates 27 fifth-graders.

May 31, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Graduating from Fort Myers Beach Elementary School signals the beginning of growing up.

Some students said they were nervous about moving on to middle school; others said they were excited.

But one theme ran true in their thoughts: they were going to miss Beach Elementary.

Article Photos

Students covered fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Martin's whiteboard with farewell wishes and notes of admiration.

Nathan Soto, 11, will be attending Varsity Lakes Middle School in Lehigh Acres in the fall. He's pretty excited about his new school, as several of his friends are also attending and he already knows and likes the PE teacher there.

He's also looking forward to the bigger school - compared to his elementary's 110 enrollees, middle school will be huge. It will be an adjustment, though.

"I think it will be rough at the beginning, but I'll get used to it," he said.

Soto plays soccer and has an exciting trip coming up before he starts thinking about school again - this summer he's traveling with his team, Elite Soccer Academy, for a 10-day camp and tournament in England.

He said he'll miss beach school. He made his first friend, Connor Amos, when he started attending. They'll no longer be classmates but Soto thinks they'll stay in touch.

"When I got here, people treated me with respect," he said.

Jennifer Martin, the fifth-grade teacher, got teary-eyed as she spoke about the 2017 graduates, her largest class to date.

Many of them have been together since kindergarten, she said. The staff and students at the beach school are kind - and once you leave the island, the kids have to start learning that not everywhere is as nice, she said.

"I try to prepare them for a bigger school," she said. "A lot of them are nervous."

Knowing other students who will be attending their middle school in the fall helps.

Celia and Lauren LaCorte, the beach school's 11-year-old twins, are going to Bonita Springs Middle School.

"Compared to other middle schools it's the smallest, but still bigger than here," Lauren said.

They already know a few current classmates attending, as well as another girl from their neighborhood and some from other groups outside of beach school.

They've also got a family tie: their mom also attended both the beach school and middle school.

They're not really nervous, the girls said.

"It's a school of the arts, so we'll get to do drama, I'm excited about that," Celia said.

Lauren is looking forward to doing dance. She used to do ballet, and wants to get back into the sport. In academics, Celia's excited to study more difficult math, and Lauren is ready to learn more about history in social studies.

The twins said they're best friends but they also have their own groups of friends, so they're eagerly anticipating branching out with a bigger student body.

Stephen Spooner will be attending Lexington Middle School in Fort Myers next year, along with classmate Leslie Bustamante. Both are anticipating the new opportunities they'll have - Spooner wants to play football and Bustamante is excited to try dance team and choir. Both know friends who are attending along with them; Spooner said he likes making new friends and keeping the old ones, and is a little sad as some of his beach friends are going away to other schools. Bustamante is both nervous and excited to meet new people, but thinks she'll know some other kids there that went to her old elementary school. She started attending beach school in third grade, and she'll miss the close and caring atmosphere here.

"Everyone was respectful to me, and nice and happy like a family," she said.

Nicholas Pyle isn't nervous about middle school. He's pretty excited that his new school will cut down his commute time. He lives on Marco Island, and will attend St. Elizabeth Seaton in Naples in the fall.

Unlike many of his classmates, he said the size of the student body is similar to the beach school, which he's attended since kindergarten. He's glad of it, because it was something he enjoyed at beach school.

"You know everybody and everybody is nice," he said.

He does think the field trips in middle school will be cooler. He's heard that Seton has a camping field trip, which he think will be fun. But he's also ready to dive into academics, and hopes he gets lots of time to study his favorite subject: anatomy.

"The human body is so complicated. It all works together, like teamwork," he said.

It was clear that whatever feelings the beach's fifth-grade class felt toward middle school, all of them were a little sad to leave their small, friendly beach school. The staff and student body celebrated the last day of school with a carnival and cook out, and completed a ritual: the fifth-graders do a final walk around the school court yard, high-fiving and hugging their schoolmates and teachers.

"This is the largest group I've had, and a very smart class," Martin said. "Most of them have been together since kindergarten."

Martin said she likes to see fifth-graders transform throughout the year. They start in the fall young and immature, she said, but they grow all year into teenagers, young adults.

"You spend more time with them that your own kids," she said. "They make me so proud."



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