Gardiner Area High School Class of 2020 banners line the hillside near the west end of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Bridge Wednesday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

With many of the time-honored traditions of high school graduation pushed aside in this year of the coronavirus pandemic, officials in the Gardiner-area school district are putting together a ceremony that honors graduates in a new way.

The event, scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Augusta Civic Center, will use technology to make sure that those able to take to part do so at safe distances and that those not able to secure a ticket can watch on the internet.

Chad Kempton, principal of Gardiner-Area High School, outlined preparations to the School Administrative District 11 board at its meeting last week, even as seniors were still completing their requirements for graduation.

“We will do a diploma ceremony, keeping people outside their vehicles at 50 or under,” Kempton said.

Gardiner Area High School Class of 2020 banners line the hillside near the west end of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Bridge Wednesday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Access to the outdoor ceremony will be controlled via a system of color-coded passes issued by the district for the families of 124 graduates. With help from Gardiner and Augusta city officials, the school district was able to rent the parking lot, giving it access to both electricity and an Augusta Police Department detail that will help regulate access to the event.

The district is borrowing a radio transmitter from Central Church so people can listen from their vehicles. Munzing Media will livestream the event so those with internet access will be able to watch the ceremony as it happens.

“Basically, we’ll have one grad on stage with family members (in front of the stage),” Kempton said, “with three grads and families waiting in line using parking spaces for social distancing.”

“Having the families come up in front of the stage will be nice,” Matthew Marshall, a Gardiner representative to the school board, said.

“It’s a bonus, because inside the Augusta Civic Center they are not allowed to do that,” Kempton said.

Kempton will be the only speaker at the graduation.

The principal said the district looked into having a parade or fireworks, but dismissed both options because of the potential to create a large group gathering, which is not allowed under the state of civil emergency due to the spread of coronavirus in Maine that limits public gatherings to 50.

Even so, a procession of graduates in Gardiner has been organized following the ceremony. Graduates will gather near the Libby Hill Business Park and drive north on Brunswick Avenue, ending at the Gardiner Area High School.

At the same time, Gardiner area businesses and organizations like Gardiner Main Street, Pine State Trading Co., among others, have sponsored a series of banners that have been installed throughout the city this week to congratulate graduates in the district, which encompasses Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner.

Kelly Marie, marketing manager at Gardiner Federal Credit Union, said her organization is sponsoring a fireworks display that evening by Central Maine Pyrotechnics, which will be launched over the Kennebec River from Randolph.

Marie said Munzing Media will also livestream the fireworks display.

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