The Freeport High School class of 2019 at last year’s graduation ceremony at Merrill Auditorium.

FREEPORT — Maggie Riendeau never imagined she would see herself on any silver screen, let alone at a drive-in theater. 

Yet, on Monday, Riendeau and the rest of the Freeport High School senior class will star in their own feature film: Graduation. 

Students and their families will drive into the Saco Drive-In Theater with their families, where their speeches, all pre-recorded, will play on the movie screen.

Traditional aspects of the school’s ceremony, including the graduates’ presentation of a rose to loved ones, will still be included, just from inside the car. A candle-lighting ceremony, usually done during the school’s scholarship night, will be transferred to graduation, and accomplished with battery-operated candles. During the conferral of diplomas, graduates will get out and sit in a chair directly in front of their vehicle, which will be spaced at least 6 feet from the others, turn their tassels and become alumni. 

They won’t be able to walk across the stage and shake hands with administration, something Principal Jennifer Gulko said was “heartbreaking and disappointing,” but at the end of the day, “we’re hoping that even though this graduation ceremony isn’t the ceremony we’ve done in the past, that seniors still feel celebrated,” she said. “They have not only gone through 12 years of schooling, but also made it through distanced learning this time of their career,” something pretty “unique and special.” 

Schools across the Southern Midcoast have been closed since mid-March and canceled in-person learning for the remainder of the school year in early April, which put traditional senior rites of passage in flux.


Graduation ceremonies are limited by Mill’s four-stage reopening plan, which sets restrictions on how many people can gather in one place. Gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited until at least August. 

According to Gulko, the school initially considered waiting until August to host the ceremony, but once the plan was released, officials realized that even then, they wouldn’t be able to gather all 130 graduates and their families at Merrill Auditorium like in past years. 

Other area high schools found other ways to gather. 

Morse High School seniors will graduate at the Wiscasset Municipal Airport and Mt. Ararat High School’s graduation will be at the Topsham Fair Grounds. 

Brunswick High School went back to the drawing board after a drive-through style ceremony was criticized for being too lackluster, and the administration released a new plan Friday that will have graduates gather in hangar six at the Brunswick Executive Airport. Wiscasset Middle High School will hold an abbreviated, but in-person, graduation ceremony and car procession outside the school. Lisbon High School will still have small groups of students walk across the stage in the gym. 

Freeport students and administrators considered similar options, Gulko said, but “that just didn’t feel like the Freeport way. It didn’t feel like us.” 


“I’ve seen people put out things that are going to work and be quick,” Riendeau said, but the class wanted something that would still feel sentimental and allow them to be together, even if they have to be separated by a few feet. 

“We wanted it to be as real and authentic as it could be,” she said. “I definitely think for my class especially … we’re going to work until we’re satisfied with what we have.” 

Riendeau, class president, has already recorded her speech (she is a little nervous about seeing her face on a big screen, she said) and is getting ready to start the next stage of her life at the University of Vermont in the fall. 

It’s been hard, she said, to finish her year so differently than planned — taking classes from home, not being able to see her teachers and friends. 

“It’s also definitely hard that we don’t get to have senior week, we don’t get to have our class trip or our scholarship night,” she said. “It’s hard to think about what I’ve seen other classes get to do that we don’t especially  after working so hard for the last 13 or so years.” 

For Gulko, it will be hardest to say goodbye to the seniors and see them say goodbye to each other without being able to exchange hugs or even handshakes. 


“It’s heartbreaking,” she said again. “This time of COVID-19 has been so incredibly difficult for all students, staff and families but in particular, it’s been hard for seniors.”

Riendeau said she was a little disappointed that she won’t be able to walk across the stage at Merrill Auditorium, but was grateful for how the school and community worked together to come up with an alternative. 

“I never would have imagined that this would be something I’d be doing, it’s kind of cool that we get this movie of our graduation,” she said. 

Gulko agreed. 

“I hope this is special,” she said. “I think none of us ever thought we’d be on a drive-in movie screen in our lifetime.” 

The graduation ceremony starts at 8:45 p.m. 

This story has been updated. A previous edition of the article incorrectly listed the date of the graduation. Freeport High School seniors will graduate on Monday, June 8. 

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