The Star-Herald

Central Aroostook to mix tradition with social distancing to celebrate graduates

MARS HILL, Maine — With high schools across Maine in the midst of planning socially distanced graduation ceremonies, Central Aroostook High School hopes to send a message of resilience to students despite being unable to fully celebrate in traditional ways.

Central Aroostook  will hold its graduation ceremony 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 5. Instead of a gymnasium filled with hundreds of family members and close friends, people will watch the ceremony from their cars on the soccer field, while maintaining the proper distance. Students and administrators will be seated six feet apart and will wear masks, according to school officials.

Though Principal Kay York and SAD 42 Superintendent Elaine Boulier will give speeches, both administrators will shorten their remarks to keep the ceremony no more than an hour. The 30 graduating seniors will then take their diplomas from a table one at a time, opting out of the traditional handshake from an administrator.

“We talked with the students and class officers and they really wanted to be together on graduation night as much as possible,” York said. “It’ll be bittersweet because they’ll be together but still apart.”

Each student will be allowed only two graduation tickets for family members in order to keep the ceremony under the state of Maine’s 50-person limit for gatherings. Other extended family members or friends will not be allowed, but anyone unable to attend in person can listen to the ceremony through FM radio transmission or watch live on SAD 42’s YouTube channel.

Students will begin lining up for the ceremony at 7 p.m., with graduation beginning at 7:30 p.m. In the case of inclement weather, graduation will occur at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.

The graduation ceremony is not the only way the district will celebrate its seniors. After the ceremony, students and their family members will take part in a vehicle procession through Mars Hill that will end at the high school parking lot. 

In the days leading up to graduation, the soccer field lights will remain lit for 20 minutes to honor the class of 2020. Central Aroostook will release the senior class’s slideshow on the school’s website and Facebook page at 7 p.m. on June 3. The seniors will tune into the school’s YouTube channel on June 4 at 7 p.m. to hear the presentation of scholarships and awards.

York gives all the credit to the students, school administrators and community members for pulling together to finish the school year and celebrate the graduates even amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19, she said. 

“This class has faced a lot of challenges together, but they’ve shown us how resilient they can be, which will help prepare them for whatever life throws their way,” York said. “As always, it will be a very joyous celebration of what they have accomplished.”

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