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Local school has no seniors

Mansfield doesn’t have a graduating class this year

— While students around North-Central Washington are preparing to don their caps and gowns, one school will sit out this year’s graduation festivities.

For the first time in the history of Mansfield High School, there is no senior class.

Before the class of 2012 received its send-off last June, school officials knew they would likely have no class of 2013 unless a new family moved to town over the summer.

So what does a high school do when there’s no graduation to plan? In Mansfield, they still kept busy with year-end testing, the spring concert, a one-scene play based on “Snow White,” prom, sports and a promotion ceremony for the eighth-graders as they leave junior high behind.

However, a lack of seniors has impacted scholarships, teacher Ric Bayless said. Those that would have gone to this year’s graduating class have instead been awarded to Mansfield alumni who are currently attending college.

“It is a benefit to these kids, especially as not many scholarships are available for second-, third- and fourth-year college students,” said Bayless, who also serves as the senior class adviser.

The Mansfield Scholars Foundation is awarding $5,250 from its own coffers to seven alumni this year, according to foundation president Shirley Hansen.

Formerly known as Mansfield Dollars for Scholars, the foundation hosts at least two fundraisers per year to send graduates away with thousands of dollars in scholarships.

The group has been active for 13 years, Hansen said, and also manages funds for memorial scholarships, including the Caleb Powers “Anything is Possible” scholarship, the Terry Dezellem Memorial and the Brittany Diksen “Our Guardian Angel” scholarship.

The foundation helps manage funds as well for awards through the Lions Club, Booster Club, Teacher Organization, Central Washington Grain Growers and the Manke-Hunt Scholarship, she said.

The switch from Dollars for Scholars to the Mansfield Scholars Foundation was made last month, a “difficult, but necessary decision” because of rising fees for Scholarship America, with which Dollars for Scholars was affiliated.

“Our dues would have increased to $700 per year, and soon after, rise to $800 per year and we simply could not justify this expense,” Hansen said.

Bayless said the reason behind the phenomenon of not having a graduating class is “cyclical enrollment.”

“Cyclical enrollment is caused by generations that move home versus not moving home,” he said. “If children move home, their children attend school and keep enrollment up. If children do not move home but instead grandchildren move home, then we have a cycle of low enrollment until the grandchildren’s kids get to be school age.”

In a town as small as Mansfield – the population is about 320, according to the 2010 U.S. Census – the class sizes tend to stay small as well.

Enrollment in the entire school district is 95 students this year, preschool through 11th grade.

There were seven seniors last year, but the school has graduated as few as three in the past.

The most recent class of only three students was in 1991, with Nikki Lilliquist, Elizabeth Fenner and Albert Welch, Bayless said.

World War II resulted in another class of three in 1945, when the male students either enlisted or were drafted. The graduates were Claudine Buckingham, Lois Matthiesen and Lena Johnson.

The school graduated four seniors in 1948, 1964 and 1969.

Next year’s senior class will have five students, Bayless said.

The eighth-grade promotion is usually right before the graduation ceremony, but this year those students were recognized at the May 14 spring concert.

Prom wasn’t altogether different without any seniors; normally open to all high school students, “a good number” traveled with guests to Manson to attend a multi-school prom on April 27, chaperone and teacher John Cassleman said.

Students were still able to select royalty as well, he said.

Cassleman, who spoke with The Chronicle as he was teaching a class of juniors, asked his students if they thought prom was missing anything without a senior class.

“They said no, but the songs could have been better,” he said.

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