CHICAGO (CBS) — COVID-19 is standing in the way of so many high school milestones, but many schools are finding ways to mark graduation for the class of 2020.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, when the school is one of the largest in the state, it takes an extra effort.

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Matt Walsh hasn’t been in the classroom with students for months. But the high school psychology teacher is showing signs that he cares.

“They are in our hearts and our thoughts,” he said. “It’s such a rough way to end high school for them. This is an emotional time and anything I can do to connect with students means the world to me.”

Althea Brown, a student advisor, is doing the same.

“It’s my way of saying goodbye to our students,” Brown said. “Not goodbye, but wishing them well.”

The signs celebrate the Evanston Township High School Class of 2020.

Teachers planted them in the front lawns of unsuspecting seniors Monday morning.

“It’s really sweet,” said senior Bri Rosemond. “It’s actually made me, like, really happy.”

With the typical milestones of senior year and teenage life on hold for COVID-19, a number of districts are making similar efforts, but this is a massive school, and 140 staff members came together to honor each and every graduating senior.

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That’s over 900 students. How was such an undertaking kept a secret?

In our email communication, we reminded them to “shhh” a whole bunch of times,” said student activities director Nichole Boyd.

Twins Natalie and Conor Ward are missing not only their friends, but the teachers who led their way.

“It was a shock that it ended quite quickly,” said Natalie Ward. “There are a lot of teachers that are great listeners and are there for you.”

Case in point, say the Wards, Mr. Walsh.

“I feel I owe a lot to him and if we were still in school I’d tell him how much he means to me,” Conor Ward said.

Signs of caring planted firmly in the ground long before Monday morning in May.

It may not be a graduation like the rest of us remember, but the gestures like these make it one they’ll never forget.

It’s  not the ending you expected, but you’ve earned the right to celebrate. Because it’s your time. CBS 2 want to recognize you and is putting 2020 graduates’ photos on air and online. Click here to send us your photo and school information. 

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