On Tuesday morning, the regional high school graduating class of 2020 entered the school for the last time as high school students — and the first time since the pandemic began.

Students dropped off textbooks, returned uniforms and settled dues for AP exams before claiming their graduation caps and gowns. The final piece of their graduation attire, a customized medical mask, will be handed out at the ceremony on July 26.

Seniors can also pick up their caps and gowns on Wednesday morning.

A graduation ceremony is scheduled for July 26. — Ray Ewing

It was an emotional moment for the students and their teachers, who have not met face to face in a non-virtual platform in almost three months. Instead of hugs, they stood six feet apart. Instead of high-fives, they held muffled conversations about summer plans from behind medical masks.

“It has been challenge for them. There’s a whole paradigm shift” said guidance counselor and senior class advisor Sean Mulvey. “There have been a lot of face to face meetings, but all over Zoom.”

He continued: “But it’s great to see them now . . . it reminds you of why you do your job.”

Members of the graduating class trickled in throughout the morning. Maj. Sterling Bishop of the Dukes County sheriff’s department, who is also the girls varsity basketball coach and a deejay, kept spirits high by spinning a custom-made soundtrack for the occasion.

“They aren’t getting the recognition they deserve,” Mr. Bishop said. “As we send them to the next phase of life, it’s important to acknowledge all of their accomplishments.”

Hunter Athearn, a graduating senior, had some perspective on the adversity the seniors faced this year.

“It’s hard to complain,” he said. “We just have to work with it . . . I don’t feel robbed any more than kids in the rest of the world.”

Hunter said that even before the pandemic began he had been taking electrical engineering classes online at Bristol Community College. After a summer apprenticeship as an electrician, he plans to continue his education virtually at the same school. After that, he hopes to become a wind turbine technician — either in Europe or right here at home.

Students sign a class banner. — Ray Ewing

Annabelle Cutrer, also a graduating senior, plans to attend Dean College in the fall to study dance and psychology. She said dance has helped her stay grounded through the pandemic, and wants to help others do the same.

“I’ve danced my whole life, it’s my escape from everything,” she said. “I want to help people escape from whatever they want to escape from.”

She said she was disappointed not to have the traditional end of high school festivities, though senioritis is one tradition that has not been claimed by the pandemic. But she said she sees a silver lining for the graduating class.

“Since we were in kindergarten, the end of senior year was always this big thing. And now it’s not happening in the way any of us were expecting,” she said. “But I think we will grow from it. We are going to be stronger coming out of it.”