In the wee hours of Monday morning, Kodi Brown and two of his friends crawled out an upstairs bathroom window onto the roof of Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School.
They leaped by moonlight between the building’s flat asphalt rooftops, just a handful of hours before taking the last final exams of high school.
“We wanted to go out with a bang,” said Zack Kadlic, one of the roof-jumping crew.
“It was more of a smack, actually,” Brown said, motioning to a nearly healed strawberry on his left cheekbone. “I took asphalt right here.”
They hung out with Cole Harper, the third daredevil, in the school parking lot late Thursday morning. Brown sat on the trunk of one of their beater cars, reminiscing with his friends and stalling before the community service they have to perform to make up for their stunt.
“Someone ratted us out,” Kadlic grinned.
They didn’t seem all that concerned about the community service. It was more of an evening-up with the school than punishment.
They’re graduating Saturday — thus the going out with a “smack” idea — but it’s not the usual graduation. It’s the last graduation ever in the school district.
At the start of the next school year, July 1, Oppenheim-Ephratah is merging with the larger St. Johnsville Central School. The resulting district will be more than twice the size of Brown’s alma mater. The high school whose roofs he and his friends so happily leapt between will soon be diminished to middle school status.
Many seniors have some nostalgia about graduating, but Thursday was an extra strange day for the three friends. In the early morning, all 13 members of the class of 2013 ran through a practice graduation ceremony in preparation for the real thing Saturday.
“This is going to be the final graduation,” building Principal Brett Barr said in a quick briefing. “There are going to be a lot of people here, a lot of school spirit. So don’t do anything to bring shame to the people who share your last name.”
All 13 students filed around the gym at the direction of district clerk, bus driver and athletics director Anna O’Connell.
They learned all the important things, like how to sit down all at once when the music stops, and which side of their square caps the tassle should hang on. Some tossed around a foam rubber ball when O’Connell wasn’t looking.
At the end they practiced the school anthem.
“History’s pages will sing of the white and blue,” is the last line.
Caps and gowns were handed out and Kyle Carman posed as his mother shot pictures. He’s the newest addition to the 13-member class, transferring from Northville at the beginning of the year.
“I was sort of kicked out of Northville,” he said. “When I got here, the first day, I felt at home.”
Post practice, the three guys in the parking lot mourned coming changes. The merger, they said, means the end of a culture.
“I was always sort of a screw-off,” Brown said. “If I’d been at a larger school, I’d be in 10th grade right now.”
As it is, he’s graduating and headed to FMCC next year with both of his buddies. He said his teachers, if they noticed one student was failing, would tell another to keep track and help the kid out, get him through.
They said Carman didn’t have a single problem since transferring.
“Even with this roof thing,” Harper said. “It would have been a much larger deal anywhere else.”
With just over a dozen seniors, the school could afford lenience — flexibility that will likely vanish next year. “We’re the end of something,” Kadlic said. “That’s why we had to get out on the roof. Legacy.”
The crew filed back into school, Brown and Kadlic to organize a supply closet, Harper to a waiting broom.