Oak Harbor High School class of 2013 graduating Monday

Senior Tyler O
Senior Tyler O'Dell lets out his excitement during Oak Harbor High School's Class of 2013 paper toss in the Student Union Building Thursday. The event is a decades-old tradition for seniors on their last day of school.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

Dwight Lundstrom doesn’t know exactly when the paper toss started at Oak Harbor High School.

He knows it’s a decades-old tradition, and a chaotic one. And as principal, he knows the drill.

“Just paper down on the floor!” Lundstrom said into a microphone as a sea of paper-toting students began pouring into the Student Union Building.

“Be sure to secure your cell phones, cameras, car keys. It’s no good to lose them on the floor. We’ve done that before.”

Not long afterward, the chaos started as thousands of school papers were tossed into the air by hundreds of students in the cavernous building Thursday.

Seniors from Oak Harbor’s Class of 2013 celebrated the last day of class by participating in a tradition that dates back to at least the early 1980s, according to Lundstrom.

They got to throw stacks of their school work from the school year into the air, symbolizing the end of their high school studies.

Seniors got out of their final class of the day 15 minutes early so they could be gathered and in position once the final bell rang at 2:30 p.m.

“As soon as the bell rings, paper is in the air,” said senior Sophie Marks. “Ever since my freshman year, I’ve been watching this happen. I’ve always been really anxious.”

“It’s definitely liberating.”

Many students fell to the floor and buried themselves in the paper, while others tossed piles at each other.

It was, after all, an occasion to cut loose.

Watching the seniors celebrate was a relief for Sandee Oehring, too. Oehring, associate principal and Career and Technical Education director, said this senior class initially was slow to meet many of the requirements needed for graduation such as senior presentations, community service and career exploration opportunities.

But then things changed.

“We were getting a little worried about them,” Oehring said. “But they finished strong.”

Lundstrom said the word “success” comes to mind when he thinks of the 2013 class, from academics to athletics.

“They’re also a nice group of kids,” he said.

Good friends Mason Beauchamp and Dylan Mullis wore red Superman capes to the paper toss and stood admiring the chaos.

“We decided to stick out today,” Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp, who is headed to Washington State University and wants to become a geologist, said it was kind of like a dream to see all of his friends leave on the final day of class.

But the juniors couldn’t leave. Not until they cleaned up the mess left by the seniors.

“It’s part of the tradition for the juniors to clean it up if they want to do it next year,” Lundstrom said.

Apparently, they can’t wait, too.

“That was a record cleanup,” Lundstrom said.


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