Waterville Senior High School graduates celebrate during commencement June 11, 2020, at Central Maine Motors Auto Group in Waterville. The high school will again hold a physically distanced graduation at the car dealership parking lot because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

As the 2021 graduation season approaches, Waterville-area high schools are preparing to celebrate in a variety of ways during the ongoing pandemic.

Several schools are planning traditional ceremonies, including Winslow, Skowhegan, Carrabec, Upper Kennebec Valley, Madison, Erskine Academy, Mount View, Lawrence and the Maine Arts Academy in Sidney.

Other schools, including Waterville, have opted for a unique ceremony to commemorate the class of 2021.

Waterville Senior High School’s graduation ceremony is planned for Central Maine Motors, similar to the school’s 2020 celebration, to avoid close contacts. Principal Brian Laramee said the ceremony is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 10, with about 100 seniors expected to receive diplomas.

Each family must remain inside its vehicle during the ceremony, and each student will be allowed to have two vehicles attend the ceremony. The event will also be livestreamed for those who cannot attend.

“We are holding graduation again at Central Maine Motors, and it will be the same type of drive-in that we had last year. The Gaunce family has volunteered the Toyota lots, and we are very appreciative,” Laramee said. “We are trying to make some positive changes from last year based on experience. Right now, we are still working through the details.”

The event is made possible by Chris and Linanne Gaunce, owners of Central Maine Motors Auto Group, who have offered their space for the second year in a row.

Winslow High School Principal Chad Bell said the school’s graduation celebration is set to kick off Sunday, June 6, with a parade, led by Winslow Police and Fire departments, which will travel throughout the community. Class night for the seniors is scheduled for Monday, June 7, and graduation ceremonies are set for Wednesday, June 9, at the school’s football field. About 78 students are expected to receive diplomas.

Skowhegan Area High School, which enrolls students from Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield, is planning to host its graduation ceremony at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 6. The event is set for the school’s football field, with students seated on the home bleachers facing the field and parents spread out in 10-by-10-foot pods, with at least 6 feet between each pod. Families will be assigned to a pod prior to the ceremony. If the weather is inclement, the event would be moved inside, which would be decided a day in advance, according to officials. The event will also be live-streamed.

“We are at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Bruce Mochamer, principal at Skowhegan Area High School. “We’ll make a determination on Saturday (June 5), but we’ll probably know before then by looking at the forecast.”

Lawrence High School in Fairfield is planning an outdoor graduation on its football field Thursday, June 10. Family pods will include up to 10 people, with a rain date set for Friday, June 11, at the Williamson Performing Arts Center. If the ceremony is held at the arts center, students would be socially distanced inside the auditorium and guests would be cycled through. Rather than cycling through each student and family pod, like last spring, this adjustment allows students to watch their peers graduate. The event will be live-streamed.

Lawrence High School enrolls students from Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

Erskine Academy, a private high school in South China, is planning one graduation ceremony this year instead of the 12 it held last year. The ceremony is set for the Augusta Civic Center on Friday, June 11, with 128 students expected to graduate. The number of guests per student had yet to be decided Thursday.

At Carrabec High School in North Anson, graduation is planned for the school gymnasium at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4. Each of the 42 graduating seniors will be allowed up to six guests, who will sit together in a pod and be socially distanced from other families.

Carrabec High School enrolls students from Anson, Embden, New Portland, North Anson and Solon.

The Maine Arts Academy, a charter high school in Sidney, is planning its graduation for 5 p.m. Thursday, June 4. The ceremony is set to take place at the school’s outdoor amphitheater, and each student is allowed five guests. To streamline the guest process, the school has sent an email to students and their families asking for all guests’ names and telephone numbers.

“I am excited for them to have a little bit of normalcy, to have some tradition,” said Heather King, head of school.

Upper Kennebec Valley High School in Bingham has scheduled its graduation for Sunday, June 6, at the school. Thirteen students are expected to graduate, with each allowed up to 10 guests. Upper Kennebec Valley High School enrolls students from Athens, Bingham, Moscow and unorganized territories.

Mount View High School in Thorndike is planning an in-person, outdoor graduation ceremony at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 13, at the school’s practice field. Officials said 67 students are expected to receive diplomas, and each is allowed 12 guests. The school enrolls students from Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo.

At Madison Area Memorial High School, graduation is set for Friday, June 11, at the high school. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., with 52 seniors expected to receive diplomas. Each graduate is allowed eight guests. Plans for graduation are expected to be finalized at the district’s May 17 board of directors meeting, according to Principal Christopher LeBlanc.

“Last year at this time, we were very sad for the class of 2020, who lost graduation, spring sports and a variety of things,” LeBlanc said. “As frustrating as this year has been, I want to commend the seniors across the state for their patience, understanding and ability to adapt to the world that we are living in.”

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