FRENCH SETTLEMENT -- The rain came down, but the parade marched on.
French Settlement High School honored its Class of 2020, whose last semester as the green-and-gold Lions was wrecked by the novel coronavirus pandemic, with a senior-led parade on Thursday, May 14.
As heavy rain fell on a line of cars stretching down Hwy. 16 in French Settlement, seniors hung out of car windows, stood on truck beds and trailers, and poked their heads through sunroofs as they passed their soon-to-be alma mater. They smiled and waved at teachers, parents, friends, and other well-wishers who braved the elements to send them off.
The parade lasted about 45 minutes, with much of that spent in the pouring rain. The procession was led by an escort from the French Settlement Police Department.
With graduation statewide ceremonies in flux due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many schools have taken parades to honor their soon-to-be graduates, including several in Livingston Parish. Denham Springs High seniors participated in a parade last weekend, while Holden and Doyle high schools have senior parades scheduled over the next week.
At French Settlement High, a senior parade is nothing new. FSHS Principal Lee Hawkins said the school usually hosts a parade for its senior class every year, one that has students line both sides of Hwy. 16 as seniors pass in between.
But with Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to close all schools statewide to slow the spread of COVID-19, those plans were nixed, forcing organizers to arrange another parade.
Along with Thursday’s parade, French Settlement High faculty has made other attempts to recognize the Class of 2020, which dealt with the August 2016 flood during its first semester of high school and a public health emergency in its last.
This month, FSHS teachers and administrators took to social media to let their seniors know how much they’ll be missed, sending each senior a personalized message on the school’s Twitter account. In addition, the school has also displayed the portraits of each senior on its digital marquee in front of campus.
“We’ve just wanted to do something to recognize them and add a personal touch,” FSHS Principal Lee Hawkins told The News last week.
Along with the statewide school closure, there have also been bans on public gatherings of 10 or more people, putting Class of 2020 graduation ceremonies in jeopardy. Locally, graduation ceremonies for the nine Livingston Parish high schools have been postponed until at least June.