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Safety Expectations for Graduation

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Safety Expectations for Graduation
Posted on 07/21/2020
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The Portland Public Schools recently shared with the high school Class of 2020 and their families some do’s and don’ts for celebrating the district’s first “drive-in” graduation ceremonies in August. The expectations are designed to help make graduation both safe and celebratory during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district will hold three graduation ceremonies Aug. 5 and 6 at the city’s Ocean Gateway waterfront terminal for the Class of 2020 at the district’s high schools – Portland, Deering and Casco Bay. The events for a total of 570 seniors will take place rain or shine.

The graduation ceremony schedule is as follows:

•          Portland High School will be on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 6 p.m.

•          Deering High School will be on Thursday, Aug. 6 at 10 a.m.

•          Casco Bay High School will be on Thursday,  Aug. 6, at 6 p.m.

For most of the ceremony, graduates will remain inside their vehicles, which will be parked in the queuing lanes at Ocean Gateway. Each graduate will be allowed to bring one car no bigger than a minivan to the graduation ceremony, filled with family members if desired. The schools will help make equitable arrangements for students whose families do not have access to a vehicle and work to accommodate two-household families. 

Each ceremony will take place on an elevated stage. Graduates will be the only ones allowed out of their cars. They will leave their cars to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, maintaining safe physical distances. Face masks will be required of all participants when not in their cars, except for when a professional photographer snaps their official graduation photo. Speeches and performances will occur live. 

The ceremony will be broadcast and streamed live by WMPG, the University of Southern Maine’s community radio station, located at 90.9 FM. The ceremonies will also be filmed and professionally photographed, and video and photographs will be available to students and families.

The Portland Public Schools usually hold commencement exercises in indoor venues early in June. Public health and safety concerns around the pandemic prevented that for the Class of 2020. In a survey, class members indicated overwhelmingly that they preferred in-person graduation to a virtual one and the first week of August was chosen as the time frame.

Each school is communicating details, expectations and guidelines in advance of the ceremonies to students and families to ensure understanding and compliance.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with about 6,750 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students – 35 percent – come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. About 53 percent of the district’s students are white and 47 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced school lunch.