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A different kind of homecoming

Parade, lawn signs honor Saranac Lake HS seniors

Carter Gagnon and his parents smile at home after they were greeted Tuesday during a tribute to Saranac Lake’s high school seniors. (Enterprise photos — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Each year, as spring begins to wind its way into summer, the excitement starts to grow as high school seniors close in on graduation day. Events such as proms, senior class picnics and other activities are all part of the annual rituals that culminate when students are handed their diplomas.

But with the coronavirus pandemic forcing schools to be shut down across New York state for the remainder of the academic year, those fun traditions have been taken away from the senior class that will be graduating in a little more than a month.

This year’s Saranac Lake High School graduates, however, can say they were provided with one experience that’s probably never happened before. On Tuesday, high school Principal Josh Dann and Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Diane Fox led a parade to honor all the seniors at the homes where they have been sheltering and studying.

In a caravan led by a school bus, followed by more than a dozen vehicles carrying teachers and staff and with a New York State Police car bringing up the rear, they traveled to every senior’s home in the spread-out district — the biggest in the state, geographically — to say hello, pay them tribute and really just reunite with each student for a few moments.

Many of the staff members were dressed in the red and white colors of the school. Some waved pom-poms, and others carried banners. Each student was handed a poster-type board honoring Saranac Lake’s 2020 senior class.

Saranac Lake High School senior Patrick Wamsganz is joined by his family in front of their home while being greeted by school staff Tuesday morning. Also pictured is teacher Kris Miemis, who was taking photos of each senior along the way. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

When the caravan stopped at each house, Dann was usually at the front of the procession up each driveway, calling out on a bullhorn to the senior.

“We were at least 25 deep all day long,” said Dann, describing the staff that traveled about 120 miles during the ride that started in the high school parking lot at 9:30 a.m. and ended shortly after 6 p.m. “It was just nice to see the kids faces, and I think they really liked seeing us. I wouldn’t have traded today for anything. We all had a great day. I would love to continue this as a tradition.”

Dann said the procession made 83 stops.

“We are in agreement here today that it was outstanding,” Fox said. “We all felt like we were really doing it for the students.

“This was an opportunity for us to show the students we love them, and an opportunity for the seniors and their families to see us and know that we are thinking about them.”

Jacob Paye holds the sign he received from Saranac Lake High School staff on Tuesday. He was the first senior visited. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

In order for the day to turn out successfully, students and their families were informed that school staff would be visiting their homes.

“We had several families who put signs in their yards thanking us, kind of ‘back at ya,'” Fox said. “It was wonderful to see that.”

This year’s SLHS senior class has 89 members.

Ethan Shue and his mom Angie were greeted by high school staff members Tuesday morning. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

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