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Signs of closure: Yard signs honor Ferris seniors who ‘have missed so much’

UPDATED: Thu., April 16, 2020

Ferris High School orchestra instructor Chris Ehrlich plants a pair of Ferris senior signs honoring twins Katie and Spencer Anderson in their front yard, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, of the Old Palouse Highway, south of Spokane, Wash. Ferris teachers and staff, along with the  Parent Teacher Group, joined forces to surprise the senior class members. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Ferris High School orchestra instructor Chris Ehrlich plants a pair of Ferris senior signs honoring twins Katie and Spencer Anderson in their front yard, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, of the Old Palouse Highway, south of Spokane, Wash. Ferris teachers and staff, along with the Parent Teacher Group, joined forces to surprise the senior class members. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The COVID-19 pandemic has stolen so much from this year’s senior class, it felt good to finally get something back.

For the class of 2020 at Ferris High School, it came in the form of a yard sign. Every student got one, and many were pleasantly surprised, like Maddie Anderson.

“This means a lot,” Anderson said Wednesday morning as she beheld the sign on her front lawn.

In school colors of red and white, it proclaimed “Saxons Class of 2020, #SaxonPride.” Nice words, but the message was much more powerful.

It was a sign that someone – in this case orchestra teacher Chris Ehrlich – cared enough to deliver 10 of them on a rainy morning.

It was also a sign that someone – counselor Dawn Hilsendeger – cared enough to come up with this crazy idea, and that the Ferris Parent Teacher Group came up with the money to make it happen.

“Then we just ran with it,” said Principal Ken Schutz as he and other administrators did just that.

They ran more than 400 signs out to cars driven by teachers and staff, who drove off and planted them in sodden ground on every corner of the South Hill.

If this was only a gesture, it came from the heart.

“Our seniors have missed so much, and we’re slowly trying to replace some of the things they have missed,” Schutz said. “All of our kids are struggling. In fact some kids who had been pretty stable are really struggling right now.”

“But the seniors are the ones who are struggling the most – the emptiness and not having the ability to have proper closure to school,” Schutz said.

Following Gov. Jay Inslee’s order last week that shuttered schools for the rest of the academic year, closure may not come easily for the class of 2020.

They will get diplomas but not the chance to wave them in front of loved ones at commencement. Housebound, they can Snapchat with friends but probably won’t get to exchange hugs and yearbook messages.

“Everything has been so crazy,” said Anderson, whose connection to school is stronger than most.

A manager for the wrestling team, she’s also in drama, band and orchestra – a nice coincidence for Ehrlich, who happens to be one of her teachers.

“It’s nice to see one of my students face-to-face,” said Ehrlich, himself a Ferris grad.

Before the world got crazy, they had planned a spring music trip to San Francisco for 150 students. Now that’s gone, along with another piece of closure for Ehrlich.

Now in his fourth year at Ferris, he came in with the class of 2020. The goodbyes, if they happen at all, will be via long distance.

The yard signs help a little bit.

“We all want to get back to school,” Ehrlich said. “It’s important to get these signs out to the seniors so they know we’re thinking about them.”

Back at the Ferris parking lot, Schutz was thinking about the kids he no longer sees in the halls.

A high school principal for most of his career, Schutz sees it every spring with almost every senior class. No matter their cliques and other divisions, they seem to unite in the final weeks of their high school careers.

“That’s what’s so fun about senior year, that in the last three months they really come together, and all these activities allow them to do that,” Schutz said.

“But now they’re missing the prom, they’re missing spring sports, awards banquet and band concerts, but they say, ‘I miss my friends more than anything.’ ”

Anderson felt the same way.

“I miss the environment, but mostly I miss seeing all my friends,” she said. “I just hope we can get together later.”

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