Neel Patel walked out of his AP Calculus AB class at 2 p.m. Friday, finally closing the book on his three-year term as a Lawrence High School student.
Done. Finished. Outta here.
“Technically,” he shrugged Friday.
That’s because he really isn’t done.
While Patel is among many classmates at Lawrence High and across town at Free State High School who won’t ever open another book, take another test or twist another locker combinations in the Lawrence school district, they won’t formally be entering the “real world” for another couple weeks.
That’s because all seniors share the same fate: They won’t actually graduate — march into their respective stadiums, listen to speeches and turn their colorful tassels — until May 29, a week after Kansas University Commencement and in the midst of Memorial Day weekend.
“I guess I’ll just hang out with my friends, play some basketball, come back for graduation and get ready for college,” Patel said, putting the finishing touches on a model airplane in College Prep Engineering, his second-to-last class. “I’m not going on vacation or anything like that.”
He’ll leave that for Mack Pryor, a senior who is among students who still need to take finals Monday and Tuesday. Pryor missed more than five classes this semester, so he couldn’t opt out.
Not that he’s complaining. The extra school isn’t what’s crimping his after-school plans. He and Pat Fay, a senior at Free State, would have bolted Lawrence on May 23 for their post-graduation road trip to Northern California. Now, because graduation won’t arrive until a week later, they’ll be left with a lot of “sitting around” until the big ceremony and then an abbreviated trek afterward.
“It’s cutting it down to nine days,” said Pryor, who would prefer to have more time for free-wheeling in his 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse. “We’re just going to drive around. We’re kind of idiots.”
Facing more than two weeks between the end of classes and graduation is a function of both the calendar and circumstances, said Ted Berard, associate principal at Free State. He figures prospective graduates could use the time to relax, or to get a head start on summer jobs.
“It periodically happens like this because of KU (Commencement), because our backup in case of rain is Allen Fieldhouse,” Berard said. “We’re usually working around KU’s graduation.
“This year, calendar-wise, this is how it worked out.”
Pryor doesn’t trouble himself looking for an explanation, or some rationalization, or really anything ending in “ation.” He just knows he needs to be back in time to start his summer gig as a commissary manager for Sporting Kansas City, and the lead-up time will be squeezed by the school schedule.
Then again, that’s just the way it is: Welcome to the real world.
“It’s going to be weird just sitting around waiting for graduation,” said Pryor, who considers himself to be a “very vague” person. “(But) the whole school system’s kind of strange.”