Caribou High School tentatively plans outdoor graduation

3 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — The Caribou High School Class of 2021 hopes to enjoy an outdoor graduation ceremony on June 13, but they’ve developed a number of contingency plans in case of inclement weather or the tightening of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The class has spent nearly half of its high school career dealing with the pandemic, and Principal Eric McGough said this experience has only made the students more resilient and capable of adapting to tough situations. 

“They’re doing a terrific job,” he said. “I feel awful that any class has to go through this, but this senior class is particularly full of leaders, and that has been evident as we plan for events and come up with contingency plans and have an awareness of the dynamics around us. This class is just strong in leadership, and I think that has a lot to do with the trials and triumphs they have experienced.”

Regardless of how the ceremony is held, students will include two former classmates — Zachary Gagnon and Kacie Haney. Gagnon lost a three-year battle with Ewing’s sarcoma at age 13 and Haney died last year at age 17 in an automobile accident. Both would have been in the 2021 graduating class.

The two students were honored throughout the year, with the school’s Job’s for Maine Graduates Program starting the Zach and Kacie Viking Pantry of Hope in their honor, and the National Honor Society inducting the two students as honorary members.

“This class has been very intentional in including those classmates and their families in this celebration,” he said. “It’s been a really special part of this celebration.”

Regardless of the status of the virus, an outdoor celebration would allow more guests to attend than holding it indoors.

“We’ve already had some family members of graduates from out of town talk to us and begin making arrangements,” the principal said. “We have a lot of space outside and are already starting to plan out the logistics of an outdoor graduation so we can have everyone there.”

As part of this plan, he said the school may purchase an additional set of bleachers for outdoors, which would not only help with the upcoming ceremony but also be useful for future outdoor functions and athletic events — which the principal said the school is trying to emphasize.

In case of any overages, he said the school would provide outdoor chairs, adding that guests would be welcome to bring their own chairs as well.

If the event size restrictions tighten before June, he said the plan would be similar but scaled down to meet the requirements.

In order to prepare for this possibility, the school is considering a color system for tickets: parents, guardians or immediate family members would get one color, another color would be given for additional guests invited by students, and white tickets would be given out for general admission. 

All tickets would be good assuming there are no restrictions and clear weather, however the allowance would scale back down to immediate family in the event of strict gathering rules.

But even in the event of inclement weather, McGough said there would be overflow seating available in the gym and cafeteria.

Like last year’s graduation, which also took place amid the pandemic, McGough said the entire senior class and their families played a part in planning the event.

“We literally put it to a vote,” he said. “It was awesome. In true Maine spirit, we did ranked choice voting, and kids could nominate any possible idea they wanted to put out there. We had a great turnout and tallied everything up, and the kids ultimately decided, which is absolutely how it should be; this is their graduation.”

This year’s senior class consists of roughly 115 students.

“It’s brought out the best in them,” he said. “Life is not predictable, and they’ve done a great job of adapting and being courageous and bold. I think it’s prepared them to be successful in dynamic situations when they leave here.”