Sumner Memorial High School Class graduates may not be crowded as closer together as they were during this 2019 ceremony, but members of the school community have started meeting to figure out what graduation activities might be possible. FILE PHOTO

Sumner begins graduation planning



SULLIVAN — Members of the Sumner Memorial High School community met in an online forum Monday night to start planning graduation activities.

The especially early planning is due to the unique situations presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

While current restrictions on public gatherings will require tweaking the traditional events, eases in restrictions due to vaccine distributions may allow for some wiggle-room in planning.

Sumner Principal Ty Thurlow led the meeting and reported that graduation for the school’s 45 seniors is scheduled for Thursday, June 10.

“Our goal is to take your ideas and your feedback … and put them into reality,” he said.

Other ceremonies to plan for are Class Night, when students receive scholarships and awards, and the Honors Banquet, a gathering to celebrate those who have achieved honor status in the school’s Latin honors system. 

Due to the number of students invited to the Honors Banquet, which is about 20, this event can likely happen in-person in the school’s gym, Thurlow said.

Thurlow recommended having Class Night be a virtual event, like it was last year, so that as many people as possible can recognize students for their achievements and the local businesses and community members that contribute nearly $250,000 in scholarships and grants.

For the official graduation ceremony, the decision where to hold the event — inside, outside or at a venue off campus — has not yet been made. 

The Department of Education has created guidelines for inside and outside graduation ceremonies, Thurlow explained. 

For events happening inside the school’s gym, the number of people who can attend at one time is capped at 50. Outside, 100 people can attend.

Events need to follow social distancing and face covering requirements. Shouting and cheering is discouraged, due to the spread of airborne particles.

Ceremonies, both indoor and outdoor, could split students up into different cohorts and allow about 10 guests per student.

This led some in attendance to suggest a graduation ceremony that would allow for a larger number of students to gather and lower the space available for family members and guests.

Thurlow said the school could explore renting a venue off school grounds, such as a drive-in movie theater, which could allow for a larger number of students to gather outside, with family members attending in nearby vehicles.

The Sumner administration is going to poll students to see if they would prefer being in a space where they can be with more of their classmates or if more space should be reserved for guests.

The school also is planning to livestream graduation. 

Future meetings, held via Zoom, are scheduled for April 7 and April 28.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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