Principal Mark Tinkham gives last minute directions to seniors lined up in middle school gym before graduation on June 10, 2017 at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale. This year’s ceremony will look much different, with small groups in appropriate social distances graduating, than big gatherings of past years. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

FARMINGDALE — Georgia Warren, Hall-Dale High School’s valedictorian, was looking forward to her graduation in her school’s gymnasium.

But the coronavirus pandemic changed that.

“It is kind of sad because we’ve gone to previous graduations, so we (wanted to) get our marching practice and our little thing on stage and our families and everyone together,” Warren said.

While some schools are planning drive-in or virtual graduations, Hall-Dale High School will hold six scaled-back ceremonies for its 75 graduating students, gathered in groups of 12 to 14. Principal Mark Tinkham said students pressed him to hold an in-person event because they did not want to do it from their cars or virtually.

“(The seniors) lost the spring sports, prom, end-of-year assemblies and recognitions,” he said. “We’re trying to do it right, based on the circumstances that we’re living in.”

The students will be allowed to bring their guardians, parents or stepparents to the ceremony. Guests will be sitting on the soccer field, a big change from the usual ceremony in the gymnasium, looking up at the bleachers, where the students will be sitting clad in custom face masks that read “Bulldogs 2020.”

After all six ceremonies, students will gather in vehicles to drive through downtown Hallowell with city police escort. The parade will end at Burt’s Security Center, after which students will be able to watch fireworks set off from the Hall-Dale Elementary School from a few separate locations where social distancing will be practiced.

Tinkham addressed the Hallowell City Council on Wednesday before they approved a motion allowing the use of Water Street for the parade. He said the hope for the event was to make graduation “a little bit special and memorable” for the school’s seniors.

Warren said she hasn’t spoken to her friends much about the upcoming ceremony, but she said “people were happy” with the “mini graduations.”

“Hopefully it’s going to be great,” she said. “We’ll be able to at least see some (classmates).”

Georgia Howe, another graduating senior, said she was “thankful” for the way the school was organizing graduation, but was disappointed she couldn’t see all of her peers graduate at once. An avid participant in theater, she said she always dreamed of giving a speech at graduation.

Howe said her class will “be in the history books one day” because of the pandemic, adding a unique tinge to an unorthodox school year.

“I feel like we’re going to leave behind sort of a legacy,” she said. “We’ll always be remembered for this; I wish we could be remembered for something else.”

The first ceremony begins at 1 p.m. on June 6. The event will be streamed by Munzing Media, Tinkham said.

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