AHS Seniors

Attleboro High senior and class president Ashley Candiales hoped that coronavirus would be gone by the time school started, but it was not to be. So like any good leader, she made up her mind to make the best of a bad situation. “After a while we had to start taking advantage of every moment,” she said. “We had to make the most of what we had.”

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Ashley Candiales, Gabriella “Gabby” Bosh, Dylan Wade and William Runey III are scheduled to graduate from Attleboro High School on Saturday, one day later than exptected.

They are the four officers of the Class of 2021: the president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, respectively.

In a normal year, the weather on graduation day is always a big deal. Everyone wants it to be bright and sunny and beautiful.

It’s supposed to be a great day to celebrate a great day — high school graduation and the beginning of a new chapter in young lives.

But this year is not a normal year. And like many other things in this unusual year, graduation on Friday didn’t go as planned and the students will bid farewell to AHS Saturday, starting at 5 p.m.

With the onslaught of coronavirus in 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker closed all schools on March 15 last year, forcing administrators to cobble together remote learning programs via computers.

It was supposed to be temporary, but it lasted to the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

In September, Attleboro schools adopted the hybrid method of learning. Under that system, students were in school just two days a week and learned remotely three days a week.

Half the student body was in school at a time, and schools were closed one day a week. One half was known a Cohort A and the other, Cohort B.

And for two weeks in January -- while the virus raged statewide and set a record for the number of new cases in a seven-day period in the week ending Jan. 9 with 39,946, and recorded the second highest number of deaths in a week at 562 -- schools went back to the full remote learning mode.

Vaccinations were in the early stages and the winter turned dark and dreary.

The hybrid model of teaching returned Jan. 19 and remained until April 5 for elementary students, April 26 for middle school students and May 17 for high school students when each level returned to full-time, in-person learning.

The high school students’ return on May 17 did not leave a lot of time to make up for lost time for the seniors at AHS, but the four class officers said it was appreciated.

They were able to reconnect with friends they had not seen in over a year because they were in different cohorts.

Principal Bill Runey said they still had to deal with one-way corridors, masks and a cafeteria full of students all facing one way and quiet as stone, but at least they were back.

“They finally got a chance for some degree of normalcy,” he said.

Part of that was a “senior celebration” held outdoors on the football field.

It was a prom replacement of sorts, but it got high marks.

The class got to dress up. There was music and food.

It was kind of a high-end cookout.

“It was a lot better than I thought it would be,” Candiales said. “Everyone was dressed up and having fun.”

Bosh described it as “a blast for all of us.”

Wade said it was as good as could be.

“They did the best they could,” he said. “We had a very good senior year for what we had to deal with.”

“I thought it was very well put together,” Runey said. “We didn’t have to wear a mask and we got to dress up. It had a prom feel.”

Members of the Class of 2021 have been through “strange days indeed” as they head into the next chapter of their lives. They told The Sun Chronicle about it for this weekend’s cover story.

In North Attleboro, senior Sean Drew, an athlete, yearbook editor and National Art Honor Society member at North Attleboro High School, has contributed his thoughts as well.

It’s not the launch pad other classes have gotten, but it’s one that they’ll never forget.

Each said it taught them important lessons which will make them stronger as they go through life. Here’s a glimpse of how they experienced the year.

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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