Members of the Medomak Valley High School Class of 2020 celebrated their upcoming graduation with a motorcade from Warren Community School to MVHS on Sunday, June 7.
The day after canceling a parade to celebrate the class, MVHS announced plans for the motorcade. The motorcade followed the same route at the same time, with only subtle differences from the original plan.
“I am deeply saddened by the widespread, extraordinary disappointment and anger resulting from yesterday’s parade cancellation,” MVHS Principal Linda Pease said in an email Wednesday, June 3.
The cancellation was the result of guidance from the Maine Attorney General’s Office to law enforcement across the state.
The agency “strongly discouraged” graduation parades and several other types of activities, telling law enforcement they could make COVID-19 precautions “impossible to maintain.”
Pease said the school and local law enforcement found a solution that meets state guidelines.
“We cannot forget that we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, the challenges of which our generations have never before experienced,” Pease said.
The motorcade replaced the traditional baccalaureate ceremony.
Each senior, with their family, could have one vehicle in the motorcade.
Participants had to remain in their vehicles. If someone had to exit a vehicle for a short period of time, they had to wear a face mask and observe physical distancing of 6 feet. After going through the parking lot at MVHS, the motorcade concluded and vehicles left the campus along a specified route.
“Thank you all for your patience during the difficult process of balancing the ethical obligations to our governing agencies and providing much-deserved celebrations for our seniors,” Pease said. “We are confident that this restructuring meets the guidelines provided to us and allows our seniors, their families, and our communities the opportunity to celebrate the achievement of earning a high school diploma and marking the rite of passage into the next stage of life.”
Friends, relatives, and well-wishers lined the motorcade route.
Before the motorcade, Waldoboro Police Chief John Lash asked that any observers stay in their vehicles and keep a minimum of 6 feet between vehicles.
Lash said the department was not endorsing or promoting the event, but simply ensuring public safety. “All we are doing is escorting the parade from point A to point B,” he said.
Lash said the main issue with the original plan was the encouragement for community members to gather and watch.
“We are not supposed to draw crowds together. The issue with the parade was with the advertising for it. People were being asked to gather, and as a law enforcement agency and a school district, we have to follow existing guidelines and the event needed to be restructured,” Lash said.
MVHS parents welcomed the decision to proceed with a motorcade.
“I was very frustrated. Given all the kids have been through and all the sacrifices they have made, to not have been able to do this would have been too much,” said Jason Mahoney, father of an MVHS senior. “The parade, or motorcade, was an opportunity for the kids to finally celebrate.”
Mahoney and other parents were vocal on social media in an effort to reverse the cancellation.
“It was a relief to hear it was back on. I was happy, but at the same time frustrated, because the fact they did this within 24 hours shows not a lot of thought was put into the cancellation in the first place,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney described Sunday’s event as a big success.
“It was amazing. I still get chills thinking about it. … As a parent who drove in a vehicle, I could see the kids had a great time,” Mahoney said.
“The show of community support was heartwarming. It seemed that every spot of grass where people could be, they were there to celebrate with us,” Mahoney said.
Katlin Puchalski, mother of a sophomore at MVHS, wants to see a parade become a tradition. She said it was a great way to include the community, as even before COVID-19, not everyone could get tickets to graduation.
At press time, a drive-in graduation ceremony was due to take place throughout much of the day Wednesday, June 10.