MIDCOAST — Several area school communities have been anticipating a vehicular parade of beaming Class of 2020 graduates in the coming days, though one area high school has scrapped those plans amid concerns from State of Maine officials.
Medomak Valley High School principal Linda Pease informed the school community June 2 its graduation parade from Warren Community School to Medomak Valley was canceled as a result of communication with the Governor’s office and per written advisement from the Office of the Attorney General through the Maine Law Officer’s bulletin newsletter.
The written advisement noted public health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as physical distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene, “may be impossible to maintain when graduations involve vehicle parades, motorcades, processions, or fireworks displays that are intended to draw crowds of people together,” according to Pease’s letter.
Those graduation activities, according to the bulletin, are “strongly discouraged and could be out of compliance with COVID-19 policies.”
Pease noted local law enforcement support for the parade is “no longer possible” and thus the cancellation of the parade was necessary.
“Although extremely disappointing, the joint decision to cancel recognizes the importance of prioritizing the health and safety of our students, staff, and community members,” she wrote, while noting graduation June 10 is scheduled to proceed as scheduled.
Five other area schools had previously informed the Penobscot Bay Pilot of plans to hold parades for graduates, and none of the other schools are planning to cancel their parades.
“We believe the way we have organized [the parade] complies with the COVID-19 restrictions,” Five Town CSD superintendent Maria Libby about the Camden Hills Regional High School parade.
“We are in contact consistently with [City of Rockland Police] Chief [Chris] Young and [Knox County] Sheriff [Tim] Carroll to ensure we are providing a safe environment for everyone to celebrate our graduates,” said Oceanside High School principal Jesse Bartke. “We recognize this is a fluid situation and if through our conversations with law enforcement we feel there is a need to adjust our plans for the safety of the public we will do so.”
Islesboro Central School, which boasts a much smaller graduating class than the mainland public schools, noted they have remained in communication with local law enforcement and town officials about their procession.
“We have their approval as it won't be much more than a line of vehicles driving from the school to the ferry terminal. It gives folks a chance to make a little celebratory noise,” said ICS Head of School Chuck Hamm. “We're very mindful of taking a short route and sending out requests to the community to continue social distancing. It won't be at a walking pace, typically found in actual parades.”
Searsport District High School, meanwhile, noted despite advertising a parade earlier, they are doing something a little bit.
“We are actually doing a procession where the seniors drive through their two towns and end up in the school parking lot in designated areas,” said SDHS principal Marianne DeRaps.
Vinalhaven School is confident they will be able to comply with established guidelines, but like other schools will continue to reevaluate as any new information is made available.
“We had already talked to our town officials and emergency management team to ensure we comply with all safety and social distancing rules, and design the route to make large gatherings unnecessary and prohibited,” said Vinalhaven superintendent and principal Tonya Arnold. “Being such a small isolated island, we believe we can comply with the COVID-19 CDC guidelines and executive orders. The parade we planned will keep all students inside vehicles with family, not stop anywhere, and
involve no gatherings as the route will be very long and allow onlookers to be at home in their own yards to cheer on our students.”