BRUNSWICK — Brunswick High School seniors will cross the stage and turn their tassels Friday during a graduation ceremony at Brunswick Landing that officials hope will be more ceremonial and meaningful than what was originally planned in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A 2019 Brunswick High School graduate embraces a loved one after the ceremony in June. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

The 150 graduates and their families will park outside hangar six at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, and will be called in groups of 10 to walk across the stage and have their photos taken. The students will then get back inside their cars, which will move to the back row, and the next row will move forward.

The class valedictorian and the salutatorian will deliver their remarks, and video of the ceremony will be projected on a large screen, allowing students, their friends and families to see one another graduate. 

The original graduation plan involved students and their families driving up to the high school, collecting their diplomas, having their photos taken, returning to their vehicles and then leaving school property. The celebration would be recorded and the video, plus pre-recorded speeches, would be available on the school’s website the following Tuesday. 

But when the plan was presented to the Brunswick school board, student board representative and senior Maddie Wayne and other school board members felt the graduation lacked ceremony. More than anything, the students wanted to be able to see each other graduate, even if they couldn’t march together as a class or celebrate how they ordinarily might, Wayne said. She later pitched an alternative plan that closely mirrored the ceremony adopted by the administration. 

Schools across the Southern Midcoast have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic and canceled in-person learning for the remainder of the school year in early April, which put end-of-the-year ceremonies and celebrations in flux.

Students left school not knowing it would be the last day, and for seniors, it was particularly jarring to realize they wouldn’t be going back, Wayne said. 

“There were a few days of ‘Oh my God, we are losing so many milestones and so many goodbyes,’ and it was really sad,” she said. 

Graduation ceremonies are limited by Gov. Janet 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. 

The new graduation plan still adheres to state and national guidelines while being “as close to what we normally would have done as possible,” Principal Troy Henninger said. “Safety is still the number one priority, but I think we struck the right balance given the circumstances.” 

Wayne agreed. 

“This is the plan we were looking for,” she said, adding that she is particularly excited for valedictorian Chapman Hall and salutatorian Darien Gillespie to give their speeches. 

“In this crazy time, I think it will be really meaningful to hear student voices talking about it.” 

She thanked the administration for taking the time to listen to and work with students when they said they wanted a bigger ceremony. 

Henninger said he is excited to celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2020, even if it’s in a different way than they expected at the start of the year. 

“Whether it’s plan one, plan two or plan 31, this is for kids when it’s all said and done,” he said. “We hope it’s a memorable and meaningful experience for the graduates and their families.” 

Wayne thinks it will be. 

 “It’s a good opportunity for us to see each other for the last time,” she said, “even if it’s just in cars.” 

Comments are not available on this story.