LEWISTON — Options for a graduation ceremony will be considered Monday by the School Committee, followed Wednesday by a videoconference to gather community input.

The Zoom webinar will be held at 6 p.m. May 20 with a panel of students, administrators, teachers, parents and advisers, Superintendent Todd Finn said Tuesday. The School Committee will meet at 5 p.m. May 18, also via Zoom. The meetings can be accessed from the Lewiston Public Schools website.

“Based on that (input), we can discuss possible options or perhaps create new ones,” Finn said. “I just think it’s important to hear from kids and parents before any decision is made. We may not be able to keep everyone happy, but everyone has a chance to be heard.”

Community input and feedback will help create a collaborative event, he said. “Safety, logistics, equity, and respect are our standards for any plan developed.”

Finn also sent an open-ended question to seniors asking them for input on planning a procedure.

Ideas include:

  • Small groups of 30 to 40 graduating together at Lewiston High School or elsewhere. Families could livestream at home or at a central location. The event would be professionally produced for broadcast, featuring all groups on local TV.
  • A virtual ceremony.
  • A personalized walk-in graduation, where students and guests have their own graduation ceremony with their families, school and city officials under controlled conditions at a central location. The district would have speeches recorded and sent home, along with photos.
  • Wait to see if/when gatherings are not so restricted in numbers that students and families could all get together. That number would have to come up to over 1,000 for this to happen.

That option is not likely, even if held outdoors, Finn said. The state is under an order through May 31 to limit gatherings to fewer than 10 people. On June 1, that will increase to fewer than 50, though the order is subject to change depending on public safety needs.

Graduation is set on the school calendar for June 5, and that may happen, Finn said, “but we are willing to be flexible.”

He added, “My hope is that with guidance from our School Committee, input from seniors, and community discussion with our standards in mind, we will be able to move forward with a solid plan.”

Principal Jake Langlais said April 20 that if graduation must be delayed because of public safety concerns, a ceremony potentially could be held Aug. 1 under the lights on the football field.  The week of July 28 would include senior prom, a top 10 luncheon, a recognition ceremony and other senior events.

Schools have been closed since March 16 to help limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Auburn school officials announced last week that the Edward Little High School Class of 2020 will graduate June 6 at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport in Auburn.

The ceremony will be conducted with the use of a large screen, an audio system and a livestreaming service.

The Maine Department of Education has issued graduation guidance to Maine’s education leaders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Local school communities must assess their unique needs and capacities, and many variables will impact decisions around graduation celebrations,” Commissioner Pender Makin said in a prepared statement.

Ceremonies must be conducted in accordance with Gov. Janet Mills’ “Stay Safer at Home” order.

The order requires Maine people to wear cloth face coverings in public places where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

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