Summer officially arrived in Clark County on Wednesday.
At about 4 p.m., the sun reached the farthest point north of the equator for the year, making Wednesday the longest day of the year.
Clouds stayed out of the way of the sunbeams, and temperatures rose to about 80 degrees.
And if that’s not enough, the last two holdouts in Clark County rang their school bells for the last time in about 10 weeks. Students in the Vancouver and Camas school districts had their last day of school. The other districts let out over the course of the last few days, corresponding with their slightly earlier starts to the 2011-12 school year.
Barbecues, picnics and other outdoor festivities marked the day in many schools.
Students at Washington Elementary in the Rose Village neighborhood continued an age-old tradition: the last-day parade.
About 400 K-5 students gathered on the campus lawn at 9 a.m. Shortly after, they marched around the quiet streets surrounding the campus, led by the youngest kids.
Each class picked a theme for the parade, correlating to something they learned this past year, said Sean McMillan, the school’s principal.
A first-grade class donned colonial three-point hats and American flags, tying in with their civics lessons. Another showed signs representing the many languages spoken by immigrant children at the school. Others made costumes inspired by their favorite book they read in class this year.
Nobody’s quite sure how far back the parade tradition stretches, but “it’s easily 15-20 years,” McMillan said.
The school’s roots go back much further. It celebrated its 100th anniversary in February, though not in the current building. That was built 10 years ago.
All students and teachers gathered in front of the school for a rendition of the “Cha Cha Slide” dance, which they’d been practicing with dance and P.E. teacher Ixel Olivas.
The parade and dance routine gives kids a chance to release the nervous energy that builds up on the last day, while still incorporating their lessons, McMillan said.
With their nerves calmed by the outdoor routine, kids returned to classrooms for another two hours of instruction before they ran off into their summer break.
School will resume Aug. 29 in the Hockinson, Green Mountain, Ridgefield and La Center school districts. Camas and Washougal school districts start back up Sept. 4. Students in the Vancouver, Evergreen and Battle Ground school districts are back in classrooms Sept. 5.