Graduation ceremonies have been scheduled for the Class of 2021 at Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach high schools and at Thornton Academy in Saco. In this file photo. the BHS Class of 2016 lines up at Waterhouse Field for their commencement ceremonies. Journal Tribune File Photo

It is the time of year when seniors are looking forward with anticipation to that ceremonial finish to their high school education — graduation.

They’re looking forward to photos with friends, sharing smiles and memories, and receiving that all-important diploma.

And after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic putting a crimp in how we live our lives, how education is delivered, and more, the Class of 2021 will have the sort of ceremony as close as possible to how most of those who have gone before them have enjoyed.

Yes, there will be social distancing and other rules, but in Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach and Saco, graduation ceremonies will be as traditional as they can be, as the pandemic lingers.

Graduation plans for Biddeford High School seniors and their counterparts at Old Orchard Beach High School and at Thornton Academy in Saco include outdoor ceremonies.

At Thornton Academy, Headmaster Rene Menard said the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 6 at Hill Stadium, with a rain date of 7 p.m. June 7.

“Thornton Academy will adhere to all current Maine CDC guidance and will seat socially distanced pods of family and spectators in the stadium bleachers and on the turf field,” said Menard in an email.

He said due to social distancing requirements, there will be a limited number of tickets provided to each graduate.

In Old Orchard Beach, commencement for an estimated 64 seniors is set for 6 p.m. Sunday, June 6, at Regina field, with 1 p.m. Monday, June 7 as a rain date – a different graduation venue than in past years, where it has been held at Seaside Pavilion.

“We will use the latest guidelines,” said RSU 23 Superintendent and Old Orchard Beach High School Principal John Suttie. “We are working on spacing around the field.”

Both schools scheduled senior gatherings as an alternative to a prom, where seniors could enjoy a meal together and play games, spend time together and have fun.

In Biddeford, the school’s website lists graduation for 6 p.m. June 4 at Waterhouse Field. Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Ray said more information on guidelines is expected in a week or two.

For the class of 2020, it was a different story — Maine and the world was in the early grip of the coronavirus pandemic, and so schools planned unique virtual graduation ceremonies — creating videos later viewed on special nights for each community at Saco Drive-In. As well, in Old Orchard Beach, families were able to schedule individual opportunities to pick up their diplomas at Seaside Pavilion.

This year, graduates from each school will march on their respective football fields, marking the end of their high school years and the beginning of their futures, together.

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