While some nearby high schools will return their graduation ceremonies to their traditional locations, Wiscasset Middle High School will hold its graduation ceremony at the Wiscasset Speedway for the second year due to COVID-19.

Principal Charles Lomonte said the senior class’ 39 students will celebrate their graduation at the racetrack on Thursday, June 10 at 6 p.m. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to the same time on Friday June 11.

This year, 200 chairs will be arranged for families to watch the ceremony and each student can invite four guests. Drive-in space will also be available for guests to watch the event.

Wiscasset Senior Chrissy Easter said she was relieved to hear her graduation ceremony will be held at the Wiscasset Speedway because the larger space allows more guests to come.

“I think parents will really appreciate being closer to their students,” said Lomonte. “It’s more personal.”

Last year, guests had to remain in their cars to watch the ceremony to keep families physically distanced from one another to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Senior Chrissy Easter said she’s thrilled about the change because “we can invite as many other guests as we’d like to watch from their cars.”

Wiscasset’s graduation ceremony is traditionally in the school’s gym, but Lomonte said the school wanted to keep the ceremony in a larger, outdoor venue to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. He said the field outside the school was considered, but quickly passed over because “all those chairs would sink into the mud.”

“The Speedway is a good alternative,” said Lomonte. “It was a nice ceremony last year. There was a nice stage set up and everyone was able to see it and hear it, which is always the biggest challenge.”

Senior Paige Davenport said she was a “a little disappointed” to hear she’ll receive her diploma at the Speedway, but that disappointment is overshadowed by her relief that she’ll have an in-person graduation ceremony at all after a turbulent senior year.

Conversely, Easter said she was “relieved to hear that graduation is being held at the racetrack again like last year, because the large amount of space and parking allows us to have more family come to watch us on our big day.”

Regardless of the venue, Lomonte said “the spirit of the gathering is about being together and celebrating our students,” as they cross the finish line after a challenging 15 months.

Wiscasset Senior Paige Davenport said she was “a little disappointed” to hear her graduation ceremony won’t be held in its traditional location, but she’d more relived to have an in-person ceremony at all. Photo courtesy of Paige Davenport

Both Davenport and Easter said their graduation is bittersweet because it represents the end to a challenging year

“The past year has been difficult,” said Davenport. “I, along with others, had trouble with distance learning and not being able to see friends. It definitely wasn’t the ideal senior year.”

Easter described her senior year as “one of the toughest school years I’ve had” due to all the changes the COVID-19 brought.

“Everything felt different coming back to school because of all of the COVID-19 guidelines, and finding motivation to finish the year out strong was difficult,” said Easter. “It is the best feeling to finally be graduating, and definitely a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It makes me proud knowing that I was able to finish high school strong after all that has happened this year.”

Wiscasset Middle High School, like schools state and nationwide, abruptly shuttered and adopted full distance learning in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country.

It opened again in the fall for part-time in-person and online learning, though students could opt for full online learning if they wished. Students said the school gradually allowed more in-person learning when they could find the space to put students that allowed them to remain physically distanced from others.

Students will finish the academic year with in-person learning four days per week, a change many students welcomed.

“One of my favorite memories from this year was when I first started four days a week in-person at school, and I got to see all of my classmates for the first time since March 2020,” said Easter. “It was a bittersweet moment and definitely one I’ll remember.”

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