Balloons and soap bubbles created a festive mood June 17 as John Pettibone School in New Milford closed its doors to its students for a final time.

Some 360 students said farewell to the school they had known since kindergarten or had since enrolled in Excel classes.

Parents whose children had long ago left the school joined those whose little ones were the last to attend there.

“I’ve been sort of weepy all day,” said Amy Berkun, whose children, Josh, 10, and Jesse, 13, joined her on the school grounds on the closing day of the 14-15 school year. “We just wanted to be here to support the teachers. Both of my children went to school here.”

The end of June will officially mark the end of Pettibone School.

By a vote of 5 to 4, the Board of Education decided in June 2014 the school would be closed.

In May, the same board members voted, 6-2, along party lines, with one absence, to turn the school building and property over to the town.

The only school board member present for the final day at Pettibone to wish teachers and students well was David Lawson. He and fellow Democrat David Shaffer had voted against both actions.

“I thank all of these teachers for their dedication over the years and their patience, especially during this year,” Lawson said. “We have here a principal (Paula Kelleher) who knows the kids coming out to the bus by name, teachers who don’t have the kids in their classrooms still knowing them all by name. That’s education.”

Christopher Reiss, 7, said he’d had “three happy years here.”

“I’m wicked sad,” Christopher said. “I enjoy being here.

Christopher’s mother, Denise Reiss, was PTO president at the school this year. She called Pettibone’s staff and teachers “amazing,” adding that is was a “great opportunity” to serve in her role.

Teachers hugged their students one last time.

Kelleher walked among the children at the front of the schools with smiles and waves, and managed to hold back tears.

“We’ve tried to keep the atmosphere positive for the children,” Kelleher said of the past school year. “It’s sad.

The teachers have supported each other through happiness and tragedy. We’re a family.”

“We’ve known the children’s families for years,” she added.

“I have grand-students here, students whose parents went here. But it’s going to be fine. Everybody’s going to be fine.”

As the last buses rolled out, a group of parents lined up by the school. Balloons in hand, they stood behind a row of children holding posters reading “JPS 4 Ever” and “JPS Rocks.”

Some children held signs almost as big as them, each with a single red letter. Together they spelled out “T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U” as Pettibone teachers looked on and weeped.

John Pettibone School opened nearly 60 years ago with third through eighth graders in attendance.

In recent years, the school featured an Excel class and kindergarten, first, second and third grades.

Next fall, the kindergarteners through second graders will attend either Hill and Plain or Northville schools.

Upcoming third graders will attend Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

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