The last bell rang at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the 587 students went flying out the doors of Evergreen Mill Elementary School in Leesburg, marking the end of a special year for the school -- its first.

Evergreen Mill was one of two schools that opened last September in Loudoun County, Virginia's fastest-growing school district. The other, Hillside Elementary in Ashburn, buried a time capsule Tuesday in honor of its first year.

At Evergreen Mill this year, a PTA was formed and raised about $20,000. The python was named the school mascot. Teachers turned empty classrooms and blank walls into areas for reading, creative writing and long division. And a school community was born. "It's been a great year," said Principal Mary B. Morris. The students will return in late August, when enrollment is expected to rise to about 600.

Today marks an even bigger milestone for seniors at four of the county's five public high schools. Graduation ceremonies will be held at Park View, Broad Run, Loudoun County and Loudoun Valley high schools. Ceremonies for the first graduating class at Potomac Falls High School were held yesterday. Coverage of the festivities will appear in Sunday's Extra.

CAPTION: Evergreen Mill Elementary students, top, bid their classmates farewell on the last day of school Tuesday. The gleefulness extends inside, where students and teachers, above, form a conga line as the last bell rings.