The Star-Herald

SAD 32 planning 2 socially distant graduation ceremonies

ASHLAND, Maine — To adhere to state social distancing guidelines but allow all families to experience the Class of 2020’s graduation, Ashland District School is planning what they call a “split graduation” ceremony.

Two ceremonies with the full class of 16 seniors will take place in the gymnasium on Sunday, June 14, with one in the morning and another in the afternoon, principal Joel Hall announced May 21. 

All students will sit on stage six feet apart and be given four tickets each for family members. But family members for half the students will attend the morning ceremony and the families of the remaining half will attend the afternoon ceremony. Everyone in the audience must sit six feet apart according to their household.

The “split” format will allow all families to experience graduation while not violating the state’s limitation of less than 50 people for high school graduations, Hall said. Much of the familiar aspects of graduation will remain in place.

“We will have the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches and students will probably be able to perform a song, but with wireless microphones,” Hall said. “We’ll announce scholarship winners, but won’t be handing out papers. There will be a table for everyone to pick up their diplomas.”

Students will march in and out of the gymnasium individually instead of in pairs and with the required distance between them. In between the two ceremonies, a handful of staff members will serve a celebratory lunch for the graduates. Only students and a limited number of staff members will be allowed at the lunch.

After the second ceremony, students and their families will take part in a vehicle parade through Ashland as a final way to celebrate their achievements. 

Although masks and sanitizing items will be available at the graduation ceremonies, the school is not requiring that all attendees wear masks. Instead, they recommend that people wear masks if they choose to.

The traditional date of graduation — the first Friday in June — was replaced with the June 14 date and times to adjust to the availability of WHOU.live, the streaming service that will be livestreaming the ceremonies on their website. WHOU will produce DVDs of the graduation that will be available for families to purchase.

Hall acknowledged that even though graduation will not happen in the ideal fashion this year, the school wants to do their best to honor their graduates.

“It’s not the graduation that they deserve, but I hope that they still feel a sense of pride,” Hall said. “Everybody is doing the best they can under these circumstances.”

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