Albany high school seniors from both sides of town returned to their respective schools on Friday, dropping off what was borrowed, taking what was theirs and leaving behind what could have been.
"It was a little strange, to be honest," said Mathew Morris, a senior at South Albany High School, where students lined up to return textbooks and instruments and receive senior lawn signs.
Schools have been closed since March, when Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. In April, she extended the closure for the remainder of the academic year, dashing the hopes of seniors around the state who will now have to wait for the chance to celebrate graduation and miss prom altogether.
"It doesn't feel like any of our previous last days before summer break," Morris said. "It had a different feeling today. None of us knew we'd show up to school on a normal Thursday and have it be our last, but there's not much we can do except make the most of what we get."
Jazzmyn Ferguson visited her old high school on Friday as well.
"It was definitely bittersweet," she said. "I was sad because it reminded me of what us as seniors are missing out on, yet heartwarming to see all the staff helping when they can."
Ferguson said she grew emotional when she saw friends driving up to the school she hasn't seen in weeks.
"It brought up thoughts of our graduation ceremony and when or where it may take place," she said.
South Principal Nate Munoz sympathizes with his seniors' sense of grief but said seeing them on Friday helped make the rainy day a bit brighter.
"It was wonderful to see our senior students today," he said. "Seeing our students brought so much joy to all of our staff today. Their presence also brought a lot of energy that our campus had been missing. It was wonderful to hand them that class of 2020 lawn sign and congratulate them."
At West Albany High School, students also received a coupon to a local pizza parlor, their graduation caps and gowns, and a standing ovation from their teachers, who formed a line down the driveway to cheer students on.
Principal Susie Orsborn said seniors also got a letter stating they had met their graduation requirements.
"It was awesome to see the seniors today," she said. "We miss them so much! It was also an emotional day talking about graduation and all the senior events we have missed."
Staff, she said, was there to cheer for students as well.
"I handed them their 2020 senior class photo," she said. "A day to remember, that is for sure."
Albany Options School plans to welcome its seniors back at a later date to collect their graduation regalia and return school materials.
Greater Albany Public Schools announced last week that graduation ceremonies for the district's three high schools have not been canceled but postponed to a later date. Students, the district said, will have the opportunity to celebrate their graduation when the strict social distancing standards put in place across the state are eased and graduation can be held safely.
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