For many teenagers, skipping a day of school during their senior year is a right of passage — thumbing their noses at authority by kicking back with each other instead of going to class.
But it's a day that high schools certainly don't celebrate as teachers deliver lessons in rooms with an unusually high amount of empty desks.
Augusta High School Principal Ken Abel looked to extend an olive branch last year by offering the senior class lunch catered in by Olive Garden to entice them to show up on the day they'd intended to skip. The students took a vote among themselves and rejected the meal.
This year Abel took a different approach by giving a reward to the seniors who did show up Wednesday while their peers stayed home or played hooky elsewhere.
“I surprised the kids at noon yesterday,” he said.
All seniors were called down the principal's office before lunch and Abel — usually the school's disciplinarian — told them to go to Subway, order lunch and he'd be over to pay the bill.
The 16 who showed up out of the 40-student senior class got a foot-long sandwich, chips and drink courtesy of the principal.
Not-so-secret skip day
It turns out Abel was better at keeping his reward a secret than the seniors planning the skip day.
Only 15 minutes before the principal called students to his office, he emailed teachers to give them a heads-up about the free lunches. But after students got their subs, word quickly spread on social media from those who were excited to get a free off-campus meal.
So how do school leaders find out about senior skip day — an unofficial student-organized holiday that is certainly not on the official academic calendar?
"Kids just talk and it’s gotten easier with social media,” Abel said.
He'd learned by Tuesday that the seniors were planning to take advantage of Wednesday's nice spring weather by not going to classes.
By Thursday morning he'd already gotten wind of how some of the skipping seniors spent their day — eating at Perkins and going bowling.
Short of a note from their parents, those students got marked absent for a day. Those who showed up got to order a personalized sandwich instead of eating at the cafeteria.
Will Abel offer the free lunch or another incentive for seniors to skip their skip day next year?
He's keeping that secret for now.