The Bridgton Drive-in on Route 302 in Bridgton will host the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School graduation in June. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

PARIS —  For the Class of 2020 at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, “Pomp and Circumstance” will play across a big screen. A really, really big screen.

According to a Facebook post by the school Tuesday, graduation will take place Sunday, June 21, at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In on Route 302.

According to the post, families will be able to bring one vehicle, and the school will mail home caps, gowns, sashes, cords and tickets.

Principal Ted Moccia reportedly told SAD 17 directors Monday that the drive-in has a capacity of 500 vehicles and could accommodate social distancing protocols.

“We could decorate each vehicle, one per senior and family,” he said. “Broadcast images of each in their caps and gowns on the movie screen. I spoke with our commencement speaker in Atlanta, who is certainly open to still come. We would return from Bridgton not in a parade, but as a procession. And we could possibly hold a fireworks display at the speedway to cap it off,” Moccia said Monday.

Superintendent Rick Colpits said the same plan could possible for other school districts.

In an email Tuesday, Colpits said three other districts mentioned pursuing the drive-in route at a meeting last week, though he couldn’t publicly name them.

Jeff Tevanian, owner of Pride’s Corner Drive-In in Westbrook, said one school district is in serious talks about hosting a graduation there in June, and he’s been consistently flooded with emails from parents asking if graduation could take place at the theater.

“There’s a lot of good-natured parents who have asked me about it,” Tevanian said. “I responded and said ‘yeah I’ll entertain the idea’, but obviously I want to speak with the decision-makers.”

And for Tevanian, balancing the financial needs of the theater with the want to help schools is nuanced and difficult. He said theaters have been suffering even before the COViD-19 related shutdown, and for some, the loss of revenue has been the final nail in the coffin.

While Gov. Janet Mills’ announcement that drive-ins can open will provide a temporary boost in business for Pride’s Corner, Tevanian said it’s important to keep business steady long-term.

“We might have a short-term bump if we’re the only entertainment open in town,” he said. “You kind of have a monopoly, but that’s not going to last forever. So when it comes down to the use of the facility, I have to balance what I could potentially make by taking admissions versus what realistically a high school would be able to contribute.” He said graduations probably won’t be able to happen on high traffic weekend dates.

In a Facebook message Tuesday, Saco Drive-In Theater said it has “quite a few schools expressing an interest in having some kind of event at our theater.”

Jon Moore owns Narrow Gauge Cinemas in Farmington. His drive-in is small, with a 50-car capacity. He said he’s had three or four requests from schools, but is unsure about how a graduation ceremony would work. The drive-in is opening to the public May 14.

“I’m not really sure how they’re planning on doing it … I’ve never seen a graduation at a drive-in, so it’s certainty something we’re going to look at,” Moore said. “It would have to be a pretty small graduating class to accommodate everyone and have effective social distancing.”

For some parents, the prospect of having graduation is emotional. Kristin Roy of Otisfield said the sense of loss the seniors in 2020 have felt is huge. She said her son, James Gosnell, isn’t a complainer, but still wants to be recognized.

“You look forward to it so much,” Roy said. “You look forward to all the hoopla, you look forward to getting out in front of your peers … and there are all the awards shows and stuff, and all the activities surrounding graduation as a rite of passage and a closure,” she said.

She said that there was talk originally about having a ceremony in August, but that possibility went away, and hosting a drive-in graduation is the next best thing.

“When I heard about the idea of using the drive-in and using social distancing where every family stays in their car … I thought that brought beautiful closure,” Roy said. “It allows families to celebrate their children, it allows families to acknowledge all their achievements … these kids are working so hard, even while they’re at home. It’s so stressful for them. It just means a lot.”

Gosnell, who plans to attend Wentworth College in the fall if the campus reopens, said he thinks the district is handling the graduation the best way they can, given the circumstance.

“I’m glad they’re doing it in a health-conscious way,” he said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.