WINDHAM — Windham High School will never again have a senior year like this one.
Future senior classes may receive higher grades, score more points, hear louder applause on stage or dress better for the prom.
But the Class of 2012 will forever be special.
It is the first graduating class in school history.
"It's really cool," senior class president Matt Cotton said. "Because the opportunity we have is something very unique, to shape traditions here for the next 10, 20 years."
Principal Tom Murphy said you could feel it in the atmosphere on first day of school last week.
Windham High for the first time had all four grades in place, freshmen to seniors. Teachers reconnected with seniors for the final year.
"For a moment, there was a bit of melancholy," Murphy said. "You're preparing them for the next stage. We see that part. Most of the kids don't see that while they're here. They will get it after they leave."
This is a long, special walk for the 125 seniors.
Athletic administrator Bill Raycraft saw it with the football team he coaches.
"There's a sense of urgency with the seniors," Raycraft. "When the seniors spoke to the underclassmen, it got pretty emotional."
Coaches have brought the message to their teams. "We've spoken to all the teams about how they are setting the bar for the athletes who come after them," Raycraft said.
That's true throughout the school.
Murphy said what the Class of 2012 accomplishes academically will affect the way colleges and universities view Windham High.
So many plans are being made. First, graduation? Sometime between June 7 and 12, depending on the snowfall and the School Board.
Under discussion is whether it will be an evening or daytime ceremony.
"Here. We'll be here," Murphy said.
The senior prom will be at the Tewksbury Country Club on May 11.
"We will have a lot more decoration and ambiance than the junior prom," Matt said. "We will be taking senior prom photos along the walk. It is a nice locale all around."
There will be a senior awards night, a senior breakfast, class day.
The school has had a yearbook before, but never one with senior pictures.
When to go to print? It's under discussion. Print early and you miss graduation season. Print later and the seniors will be invited back next year, probably around Thanksgiving, to get their books.
Discussion, Murphy said, is a big part of this year, with traditions being established. Seniors will have their say in that discussion.
For the first time, senior athletes will qualify for all-star games at the end of the seasons. They will be honored on award nights and present bouquets to mothers at their last home games.
Big theatrical performances this year will be Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera."
Teacher Jared Cassedy from the Fine & Performing Arts Department is working on one.
"We have discussed a school cheer," Matt said. "There may be a motto as well."
There will be a homecoming football game, but everyone admits the real homecoming will be next year after the Class of 2012 has graduated.
"We expect all graduating seniors to come back," Raycraft said.
There's no Thanksgiving football game yet, though Raycraft and Murphy would love to find an opponent to make that a tradition. Call Raycraft if you have a high school team and want to start a tradition.
The Class of 2012 will try to leave its mark in ways important to Windham, too.
"We're looking to motivate students in community service and philanthropy," Matt said.
Murphy said it is a unique and exciting opportunity for this class.
"From our perspective, what we want for the Class of 2012 is that they will have many opportunities available to them when they are done at Windham High School," Murphy said.
Cotton knows the traditions are important — and fun — but he would like to see his class leave a legacy of action and participation.
His message to classmates: "Enjoy the time here and grow in every sense of the word."
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