DEER ISLE — With “typical” graduation day less than a month away and social distancing restrictions still in place due to COVID-19, Deer Isle-Stonington High School officials are still determining how to safely yet memorably hold a ceremony for the school’s seniors.
The school’s small class size offers some flexibility. There are just 28 students in the senior class, 23 of whom are graduating.
Principal Dennis Duquette pitched an idea to the CSD 13 Board at a virtual meeting last Thursday night but was sent back to the chalkboard, so to speak.
Duquette’s plan was to have graduates line up 6 feet apart, march into the gym, with everyone wearing Mariner blue face masks, and sit on one side of the gym on the bleachers.
That would leave about 25 chairs on the gym floor for one parent or guardian per student. The students would be limited to one family member because of the Governor’s executive order limiting gatherings in excess of 50 people, Duquette said. Meanwhile, other friends and family could watch a live stream of the graduation on a large screen outside the school building.
The honor parts students would give their speeches at the podium. The microphone and podium would be cleaned after each student spoke. Duquette and another school official would place students’ diplomas on a table instead of handing the diplomas to them.
After the ceremony, there would be photos taken of each student with parents outside followed by a motorcade around the island led by a fire truck, Duquette said.
School board members balked at the idea of students having to choose which parent would witness the graduation in person.
“The whole one parent thing, I just don’t see that going over very well,” said board member Liz Perez.
“I agree,” said board member Skip Greenlaw.
“My thought is how do you ask a high school senior who’s in this situation to choose a parent,” asked board member Tracie Morey. “If you have split families it makes it all the more complicated. The choosing is what’s getting me.”
“How is the pomp and circumstance not lost here?” board member Darrell Williams asked.
“The students are going to line up in the hallway just like they did in 2019,” said Duquette. “The parents are going to be there. [Videographer] John Lincoln is going to be live streaming the whole event. They’ll be walking out the doors and being greeted by who knows how many people outside. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance to that.”
One board member asked if there had been any discussion about delaying graduation to late summer when restrictions on sizes of gatherings might be lifted.
Duquette said he thought it was important to have graduation now while all the students were still around. No one has started working full time yet, he said. No one’s left for the military yet.
“It may get better,” Duquette said. “It may get worse. The unknown is it may not get better at all. At least we have an opportunity right now.”
Ultimately, the only consensus reached was that the school board members want a graduation plan that doesn’t entail seniors choosing one parent to witness graduation in person.
Board Chairwoman Jane Osborne said, “We’d really like you to go back and think about a way you can stage this, whether outside, but in a way that both parents can participate when their student is front and center. I realize it really complicates things, but this is such an important event.”
Deer Isle-Stonington High School’s graduation is traditionally held the second Sunday in June.