Eventually, there has to be a last day of school. No matter when you choose to end school - late June, early June, mid-May, Pesach - there has to be a day that is the last one. For many teachers and administrators, this day is to be dreaded - it is hard to do meaningful learning on such a day, we may have spent the better part of the past week wrapping things up with our students and having class parties, and the final day may only be a half-day anyway. Thus, the challenge presents itself of how to do more than twiddle one's thumbs on the last day of the school year.
I like to think that we have developed a nice approach to the final days of school. Sometime during the final week, most classes get into what I will call "siyum" mode - having the last homework, the last test, learning the last few psukim or vocab words or math problems. In our Middle School, we end finals with several days still to go in the school year and conclude with a final chessed project (this year we cleaned up some local parks), a final advisory program, and student council elections for next year. Teachers had a chance to return finals and offer final messages to their students.
When it came to the absolute last day of the year, we adhered to what I consider to be the three messages to send on the last day of school:
1) We had a great year!
2) Have a great summer!
3) Go (name of school)!
How did we do this? We asked all of our students to come in wearing the school colors (and we even slightly relaxed the dress code for this). We said goodbye to those students who are moving elsewhere and recognized those who had excelled in non-academic areas during the year. We played a Jeopardy-style game that reviewed all sorts of things about the school year - from subject matter to school and current events to teacher trivia. Finally, we watched a student-prepared "highlight video" of the entire year and counted down from 10 to the final bell. Our students left happy, excited for the summer, and proud to go to such a wonderful school.