Lebanon Community Schools closed the doors in mid-March after Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order shutting down all public schools in the state until April 28.
Classrooms, empty. The cafeteria, a ghost town.
But something still walks the halls at Lebanon High School, its footsteps echoing off the halls: heartbreak.
A specific type of disappointment for students who have worked 12 years, toiling away at learning the alphabet and colors before moving onto addition, subtraction, biology and algebra only to have the last weeks, usually filled with pomp and circumstance, slip through their fingers.
"We're heartbroken for them," said college and career coordinator Wendy Eilers.
Brown's executive order currently extends only to April 28, but on Monday, Washington closed its schools for the remainder of the year, joining at least two other states.
"Our hearts break for them at the possibility of not having all the things at the end of the year they worked hard for," Eilers said.
So, she sent an email.
She had seen the efforts at districts around the mid-valley and across the country of teachers leading social distancing parades to cheer up students and others taking to social media to try and lift spirits. Why not Lebanon?
"We were in a Zoom meeting with the bulk of the staff," said first-year principal Craig Swanson about Eilers' pitch to reach out to seniors on Facebook. "I get choked up thinking about staff's response."
More than 50 photos show teachers and administrators holding signs of encouragement for the class of 2020.
"Challenges only make us stronger."
"We're in this together! I'm here for you!"
"This may not be the ending you wanted, but let it become the beginning of the life you have dreamed."
All these were among the signs paired with familiar faces on the school's Facebook page.
"It was really to celebrate the kids," Swanson said.
Further guidance on graduation ceremonies and requirements are expected from the Oregon Department of Education shortly. The department has told districts that there is a "strong possibility" students may not return this year, but the current executive order from the governor would have to be extended for that to become a reality.
"We're really feeling for the kiddos," Swanson said. "They're maybe losing out on the last portion of their senior year."
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