What is usually a mundane, yet necessary bureaucratic process at the end of each year, became an event that a group of more than 500 seniors at Hart High School will not forget any time soon.
Generally, a day like Wednesday morning during a normal school year, according to Hart High Principal Jason d’Autremont, would be filled with seniors dropping off their textbooks, picking up physical education clothes and cleaning out their lockers.
COVID-19, however, has changed this much like it has changed every other facet of society, forcing school site staff to complete this process through a drive-thru style dropoff/exchange type situation.
But, wanting to make this a memorable experience for those seniors who were robbed of these precious last few weeks of high school, the school site staff worked with the student body’s ASB leader to add one final stop to the turn-in machine.
The final stop for the students, after dropping off their books, locker materials and receiving their senior awards, was a fence where they could place the padlock they had received a month earlier when they received their graduation robes.
The students had been instructed over the last month to personalize their padlocks, whether it be with paint, etchings, ribbons or any other type of medium. They would hop out of their car right before heading off campus — for many — one of the last times, run up, past the various signs and posters of congratulations, while their teachers shouted encouragement nearby, and snap their lock onto the fence.
And as more locks were added the shape of a heart with the inscription: “Class of 2020, Forever Locked at Hart” began to take shape.
And then they drove off, with the lock and their name left on the school forever.
The idea, d’Autremont said, was inspired by the Love Lock Bridge in Paris, and the response to it, he said, left parents and students overjoyed. Approximately 500 students in their vehicles stretched out of the back parking lot at Hart High School, heading down Newhall Avenue well past the Boys & Girls Club.
“It was pretty cool seeing people actually take the time out of their day,” said Max Bjorkman, a graduating senior who decorated his lock with his varsity football number, No. 27. “It was hot out, and people were jumping up and down, all really excited. It made me feel very special. It showed that they really cared.”
While students received their papers or senior awards from the front office at the first stage of the drop-off, senior faculty advisor Kerri Mitchell had found herself a megaphone and was excitedly shouting out each student’s name and accomplishments.
“I told our staff today, as I recapped the day for them … that they (the students) may perhaps forget what they learned over the last couple of weeks, let’s just say,” said d’Autremont. “But you know what they will not forget? They will not forget how we as a staff made them feel today and how we made the parents feel today, celebrating them as the graduating class of 2020.”
According to d’Autremont, the locks will stay up for the years to come as a permanent reminder of the graduating class of 2020, which finished high school during “a year that’s been different than any other year ever in education.”