A soft beep heralds the arrival of the afternoon announcements and is quickly replaced by the voice of Dr. Sharkey. The former AHS principal announces, “All members of the Class of 2012 will be expected to stay in their classrooms for the remainder of the day.”
Suddenly, a cacophony of stamping feet resounds throughout the school, accompanied by frantic whoops and shouts. Water balloons fly through the air, joined by Silly String and the blasts of air horns. Those unfortunate enough to be trapped in lessons seek shelter, and hide behind their classroom doors.
These madmen in the corridors are the seniors: freshly liberated from the chains of high school. Hundreds of students run towards freedom – straight into the halls of legend. The flying chariots of the Valkyries await in the foyer, ready to whisk these Warriors to Valhalla.
Yet, the final lap has gone the way of the gods of old – nothing more than a story to most of the student body. For the second year in a row, AHS seniors will be prohibited from taking their last lap.
‘This is an event that has obviously not been monitored that well. There has been disruption of classes, vandalism, and disrespect of teachers. Having the potential for that kind of behavior is just not safe.’
But is that a good thing? Dr. Lord would say that it’s for the best, citing several academic reasons, pointing out that the last lap coincided with the freshman’s preparation for the science MCAS, as well as finals week for the seniors.
He also emphasized, “This is an event that has obviously not been monitored that well. There has been disruption of classes, vandalism, and disrespect of teachers. Having the potential for that kind of behavior is just not safe. The administrative team and I, program advisors, and teachers, have agreed that this is the best route to take. My number one priority is to promote a safe learning environment, even if it’s unpopular among the students.”
Lord stressed, “Part of the art of good leadership is to allow the people you work with to be themselves. I’d be very curious to see what the seniors could’ve come up with as a safe alternative. But so far, no one’s done that.”
The principal noted that he gave the seniors a chance last year, and allowed them to head to the Dunn Gym for an ice cream social, complete with music and sundaes. According to Lord, four hundred members of the Class of 2013 charged the doors, chanting things like “one more lap.” He described this as “mob mentality that was frightening for myself and the teachers involved.”
Officer Dowd was on standby in the foyer during last year’s celebrations. While Lord’s comments may have seemed like an exercise in hyperbole, Dowd supported the claims, noting a “huge wave of kids” attempted to leave the gym. Nevertheless, Dowd said, “The majority of them stopped as soon as the teachers made a move – probably because they didn’t want to get in trouble.”
Twenty students made it past the teachers’ line of scrimmage, and were later identified by the security cameras. They were suspended from a Senior Week activity for doing so.
Sadly, it seems that the increase in school spirit at AHS has not increased the amount of trust that administration has in students. When asked if he believed in the majority of the senior class to take a last lap properly, Lord said it was “hard to say after last year’s events.”
The general consensus is that the Class of 2012’s lap was extremely inappropriate, while 2013’s was a disappointment. However, numerous members of the faculty think it’s unfortunate that the behavior of previous classes warrants complete cancellation.
Health teacher Mrs. Breen has been at AHS since 1995 and remembers the last lap occurring on an annual basis since then. She said, “I think it’s too bad that kids in the past have ruined traditions at Andover High. Our goal is for you to graduate from here – I think it’s okay to celebrate for five minutes.”
Mrs. Stevenson, English teacher, said, “The final lap was a short disruption, and it allowed everyone to join in on the celebration. It was a rite of passage, and I think the seniors are angry it’s being taken away due to the actions of previous classes.”
Art teacher Ms. Dunning said she worries about the increasing amount of control within the school. Dunning joked that the final lap was cancelled because seniors were having too much fun. Yet, her mood quickly turned serious, and she asserted, “You need to have a breakout day – for thirteen years you’ve lived under all these restrictions. It’s fun for teachers and it’s fun for students.”
The cancellation of the final lap, coupled with a late release date, has created a generally gray mood among the senior class. One senior, Alec Dean, noted, “My friends were really angry about it. They were talking about it at lunch the other day. I can see why they’re mad, but I was never really looking forward to the lap in the first place, so I don’t really mind.”
Another senior, Evan Duerr, said, “I couldn’t care less about the cancellation. I’m leaving AHS with my head held high, and with a severe disdain for the leadership of the school. The confiscation of the last lap is just another way for them to control people.”
A third, Grace Huang, empathized with the faculty, noting the reasons for the cancellation. She mentioned, “Even if it was just one stray kid doing something stupid – something always happened. There are always going to be those kids who run around and disturb people.”
Despite this, Huang was still disappointed the last lap had to go. She pointed out that the seniors before her didn’t have to “earn” anything, and wondered how her class would even go about earning it anyway.
Huang recalled, “As a sophomore, my friends and I were really excited about the final lap. It brought the seniors together one last time, and it was a tradition. It was so loud, happy, and fun – an ecstatic thing to do as we leave. And now we can’t have that.”
By Dylan Zhang