CEDAR FALLS, Iowa The end of the line finally came mid-morning Wednesday for students at the University of Northern Iowa's Price Lab School.
Seniors at the laboratory school on the UNI campus graduated last Sunday. But on Wednesday, the remaining students finished a half day of classes amid hugs and tears.
Many of the 360 students at the K-12 school wore orange T-shirts with that said, in part, "...I am a Panther no one can take that away from me."
Greta Heistad, a Price Lab 6th grader, gave a tearful reply when asked if she would enjoy her new school as much as the one that was closing.
"No, because this is the best school ever and everybody loves each other no matter what," Heistad said.
Greta's mother, Deirdre Heistad, thought she daughter might change her mind eventually.
"I know both of our kids will do just fine next year. I think there are lots of good schools around the area," Heistad said.
Parents say it's been a long draw out process since UNI President Ben Allen announced last February the school would close at the end of classes in 2012. The Iowa Board of Regents confirmed the closing decision the following month.
The building itself will remain open until the end of June. But one administrator said there are no summer classes scheduled, so the students who walked out the door Wednesday morning ended a lab school and teacher training tradition that goes back to the founding of UNI. The Price Lab building itself opened in 1957.
Some students leaving for the final time appeared upbeat about going to a new school this fall. Many remarked that it wouldn't be so bad because many of their Price Lab School friends were coming along.
Gus Andrews, a 2nd grader, expects to see some familiar faces at his new school.
"A lot of them and there are some people who are already there," Andrews said.
Dave Deibler, leader of a group called Keep Price Lab Open, said a lawsuit filed by parents against the Regents is still active and may go before a judge as early as next month. Thirty seven plaintiffs allege Regents did not have the authority to close the laboratory school without a vote by state lawmakers.