From moving into a new school building to adapting to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Morse High School students have taken change in stride, but this year’s graduation ceremony will bring a little familiarity.

On Saturday, June 12 at 2 p.m., about 155 Morse High School seniors will graduate on McMann Field, the school’s traditional graduation site. The rain date for the ceremony is Sunday, June 13 at 2 p.m.

Senior Class President Wade Bradford said have his graduation ceremony in it’s traditional location is “a relief considering how much of an unknown this year has been.” Photo courtesy of Wade Bradford

Senior Class President Wade Bradford said having the graduation ceremony at it’s traditional site is comforting after students had to adapt to near-constant change and so many traditions they counted on were left behind due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s a relief considering how much of an unknown this year has been,” said Bradford. “We haven’t had pep rallies and the stands have been empty on senior night for basketball. To hear we’re having graduation at McMann Field is huge for us.”

According to Morse High School Principal Eric Varney, students will be seated together on the field, six feet apart, in front of a raised stage. Students will be given a mask, but don’t have to wear it while seated or receiving their diplomas.

Families from the same household will be seated together, six feet apart, behind the students and will not be required to wear a face mask while seated.

Bath-based Play By Play Productions will also be recording and livestreaming the ceremony on their YouTube page for those unable to attend in person.

Valedictorian Eleanor Carrolton said the COVID-19 pandemic taught her the ability to gather with her classmates for their graduation ceremony is more important than the venue. Photo courtesy of Eleanor Carrolton

Bradford said he’s thrilled students are allowed to invite six people to the ceremony because “being surrounded by friends and family is what we’ve been dreaming of.”

Last year, RSU 1 moved the high school graduation to the Wiscasset Municipal Airport, a site that had more space to allow people to keep their distance from one another and watch the ceremony from their cars. Students also remained in their cars, separated from their classmates, until they were called to a makeshift stage to receive their diplomas.

While Varney said last year’s unusual graduation ceremony was “unique and special,” he said “it feels good” to be able to hold this year’s ceremony on familiar turf.

“Every step back towards normalcy feels promising for next year as we look ahead,” said Varney. “If anything, the feeling of graduation is about celebrating what has happened. I know they’ve had a very difficult end to their formal schooling, but coming out of the worst of the pandemic, this class has a lot to be hopeful for.”

Valedictorian Eleanor Carrolton said “it feels somewhat surreal” to know she’ll be graduating alongside her classmates on McMann Field after all the COVID-19 pandemic has changed about their education.

“While I always expected to graduate, I could never have anticipated the journey of the past year,” she said.

Morse High School students were forced to transition to full online learning in March 2020 and haven’t completely returned to full in-person learning since. Students will finish this academic year in a part-time in person and online learning model.

Carrolton said after abruptly moving to full distance learning as COVID-19 cases continued to rise, “I wasn’t sure I would see any semblance of normalcy before the end of my senior year.”

Though students are thankful for the glimpse of normalcy their graduation will provide, Carrolton said the ability to be together is more important to students than their graduation venue.

“Through our experience with both COVID-19 and moving to the new school, we’ve learned that being together is what’s truly important,” said Carrolton. “Whether we are at the airport like last year or our traditional location on the field for graduation, I believe we are all excited to gather in one place for the first time in over a year.”

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