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Not many superintendents have had to coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Secret Service and the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department just to put on a high school graduation ceremony.
But that is the task for SAD 4 Superintendent Kelly MacFadyen and her staff at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford this week where the annual distribution of diplomas will coincide Friday with a visit to the central Maine mill town by President Donald Trump.
The exact time for Trump’s arrival to tour Puritan Medical Services — one of the world’s two largest producers of the medical swabs used to test people for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — remains uncertain.
But a drive-in graduation at PCHS is set for 8 p.m. in the school parking lot. The audience will watch from their cars in accordance with the state’s social distancing standards meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The approximately 40 seniors will emerge from the school and climb a set of stairs to a long flat-bed trailer where they will be presented their diplomas.
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“This has been a challenging week,” MacFadyen said late Wednesday afternoon. “However, providing education to our students has been challenging since March. We have been challenged with how to feed our students, how to provide them with instruction remotely and how to conduct a respectful graduation in a way that keeps everyone safe while appropriately honoring our seniors’ very important rite of passage.”
MacFadyen said she and other school officials have worked with the Secret Service to coordinate their schedules for the day, and also have been in close contact with the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office regarding potential protests that may coincide with Trump’s tour of the Puritan factory.
On Tuesday, videos posted to social media showed government helicopters taking off and landing on the PCHS soccer field, suggesting how Trump likely will make the final leg of his trip to Piscataquis County.
“Adding a presidential visit and possible protests on the same day as graduation has certainly complicated the process,” MacFadyen said. “With that said, I would add that we are all very proud of our community and parents of our students who have worked long hours at Puritan Medical to produce the test swabs that have had a major impact on our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So, we are willing to step up to the challenge and make this work as best we can.”
This marks the first time PCHS has held its graduation on a Friday night, MacFadyen said, as the school typically holds the ceremony on a Sunday afternoon.
The change is not the result of Trump’s visit but because of Department of Education directives related to the coronavirus.
“Because of the restrictions needed in response to the pandemic, we wanted an evening graduation due to the lighting for our slideshows,” she said. “We chose Friday, feeling people would not want to have a late night on Sunday.”
Watch: What Maine is doing to expand contact tracing