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FLORENCE – Local schools are joining a nationwide movement to celebrate high school seniors by turning on their stadium lights each night.

The graduation celebrations seniors have long looked forward to have been largely muted by efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic. But schools across the country are saluting their seniors by turning on the lights above their empty campuses in what has become known as #BeTheLight .

Florence High School joined the movement April 7, Principal Toby Haugen told PinalCentral by email in response to a request for comment.

“Every night until our originally scheduled graduation, May 21, 2020, all stadium lights will turn on at 8:20 p.m. and run for 20 minutes as a tribute to the class of 2020.” The time is a shout-out to this year’s seniors because 8:20 is known as 20:20 in the 24-hour time system.

“There are many high schools across the country participating in similar gestures, including Poston Butte and San Tan Foothills high schools,” Haugen said. “This is just one way we are working to recognize all high school graduates of the class of 2020.”

Both Maricopa High School and Combs High School are following suit in lighting up their stadiums every night at 8:20 p.m.

Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said at a Wednesday board meeting that lights will be turned on every night starting April 13 through May 21, “in celebration of our 2020 senior class.”

“We encourage all of our families and community to participate by turning on their porch or business lights in the same fashion,” Lopeman continued. “We miss all of our students and think of you often. Remember to stay engaged in your studies and safe in your homes, and we’ll leave the light on for you.”

Coolidge Unified Superintendent Charie Wallace said the district had considered doing the same thing with its football stadium, but instead opted to work with the city to light up the water tower with school colors.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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