Although the coronavirus pandemic has prevented high schools in central Maine from holding traditional graduation ceremonies, administrators have worked to modify the celebrations to send off their seniors in proper fashion.

Three schools — Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Lawrence High School in Fairfield and the Maine Arts Academy in Sidney — have announced the following plans for their 2020 graduates:

Messalonskee High School

Messalonskee graduates will be honored with a modified graduation ceremony followed by a parade through town.

Beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, students and their guests will file into their assigned parking spots at the high school at 131 Messalonskee High Drive in Oakland.

Students will then be called into the performing arts center by groups of 10 to receive their diplomas and have their photographs taken.

After all of the students have received their diplomas, they will return to their cars, where they will be addressed by the senior class president, who will lead students in the traditional turning of the tassel.

Following the ceremony, students and their guests are invited to participate in a parade through town. The parade route will begin at the high school, proceed down Oak Street and onto Main Street, where the procession will splinter off.

For Principal Paula Callan, the celebration is bittersweet.

“No plan is ideal,” Callan said, “and there is disappointment because some of the traditions are not available this year. Some of  those things that are very special we’re not able to replicate.

“But these kids have been resilient, although that’s not unusual for this class. They’re just a great class, and they’re definitely going to be missed.”

Messalonskee High School is part of Regional School Unit 18 and serves Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

Lawrence High School

Graduates at Lawrence will be able to walk across the stage at the school’s Williamson Auditorium to receive their diplomas and take photographs with their guests.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 4.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Principal Dan Bowers said it is a “closed event,” only open to graduates and their guests. He said the diploma ceremony, speeches and the senior video will be available for viewing on the school’s Facebook page.

After the seniors receive their diplomas, a procession of cars will leave the school parking lot at 9 School St. and proceed down West Street. The parade will continue onto Western Avenue, Main Street, Summit Street and back to the school.

“We understand this is an exciting time in a young person’s life,” Superintendent Roberta Hersom said in a prepared statement. “Staff are doing their best to ensure a positive commencement for the Class of 2020, whatever that beginning may be.” 

Lawrence High School is part of School Administrative District 49 and serves Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

Maine Arts Academy 

The 52 graduates of the Maine Arts Academy will be celebrated with a parade around the lakeside campus and a diploma ceremony at the Bowl in the Pines, Maine’s largest amphitheater.

Beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, graduates are scheduled to enter the campus in their cars, where they will be lead along a lakeside path that will be lined with teachers and staff.

Graduates and their guests will then be lead to the amphitheater, where the graduates will exit their vehicles and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas from Head of School Heather M. King.

The ceremony will also include speeches from student council presidents Molly Hagerty and Michael Fortin.

The Class of 2020 also marks the first class that has spent all four years at Maine Arts Academy, according to Christa Johnson, director of development at Snow Pond Center for the Arts.

This will be the first time in 84 years that the school has hosted its own graduation ceremony.

“The graduates of 2020 are facing a moment in history like no other, and I couldn’t be prouder of every single one of them,” King said in a prepared statement. “Thanks to their resilience and devotion, we were able to find a way to mark this once in a lifetime occasion and, just maybe, we are sending these students off with the most important lesson of all.

“There will always be circumstances in life they cannot control; however, they can choose how they respond to life’s unique challenges.”

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