School and district staff members reflected Thursday with the end of the first year and initial graduation coming this weekend for McCracken County High School.
On Aug. 9, nearly 2,000 students from Reidland, Lone Oak and Heath high schools, along with more than 100 faculty and staff members, began the journey as the first in the new McCracken County High School.
Assistant principal Molly Goodman said the first day brought an unforgettable experience for students and staff members.
"We spent so much time planning, preparing, thinking and talking about the first day and then to see the 1,900 students, it became reality," she said.
The opening practice ceremony ended Thursday with principal Michael Ceglinski leading a chant of "We are Mustangs" and singling out the senior class as the first group to graduate from the school.
Saturday brings the end of that inaugural year when about 400 seniors will receive McCracken County High School diplomas.
"The classes blended amazingly well, which is a tribute to all the people in the building," Ceglinski said.
Other than the first day of school, Ceglinski pointed to a moment during this year's basketball homecoming game against Paducah Tilghman - when the student section exchanged its previous high school gear for Mustangs gear - as truly special. He said it served as the time when the school and the entire community became one collective unit.
"The senior class paved the way for the underclassman and wore the fact that they are the first-ever class to graduate as a badge of honor," he said. "It's impressive to step back and see what our senior class has accomplished."
McCracken County Superintendent Nancy Waldrop agreed, adding, "We relied on the leadership of our seniors to show everyone how to come together and build a great school."
The first year was not without some necessary adjustments, such as switching the positions of assistant principal Victor Zimmerman and Lone Oak Intermediate School principal Matthew Dobson at mid-year.
The district also had to coordinate a new transit structure and abnormally high unpaid cafeteria bills from the consolidation of so many students.
"I don't think it could have gone any better," Ceglinski said. "We had some bumps in the road but so does every school."
He said the first year laid a solid foundation to build on.
"What we have built here is special, and the senior class has set that bar high," he said. "The school leaders now have to replicate and figure out how to make year two better than year one."
Goodman said graduation weekend will bring a mixture of enjoyment for the final time with a unique senior class and looking toward the future.
"As much as the first year was exciting, awesome, incredible and wonderful, we are already thinking about next year," she said. "But everyone should enjoy the moment because the first graduation is a once in a lifetime experience."
Graduation will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Marquette Stadium on the high school campus.
Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.