OHCHS Vice Principal John Springer, left to right, Principal Ted Moccia, Senior Madison Day of Otisfield, Vice Principal Laurie Catanese. Supplied photo

PARIS — In another unprecedented act during an unprecedented public health emergency, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Principal Ted Moccia made it his mission to hand-deliver every graduating senior’s cap and gown. He brought Assistant Principals Laurie Catanese and John Springer along for the ride.

They drove 514 miles. It took three days, including a Saturday, to do it. They hit 10 different towns – the eight that comprise  SAD 17 as well as outliers Raymond and Bethel where out-of-district students reside. They got lost a few times. But in the end, 200 of 207 OHCHS seniors received their cap and gown for graduation during a personal visit from the school’s top administrators.

OHCHS Principal Ted Moccia, left, parent Kristin Roy,center, and Senior James Gosnell of Otisfield. Supplied photo

“We tried to get every family,” Moccia said Monday evening. “We did miss a few because they were not at home. But now I’m doing a class-wide email with instructions for everyone on how to prepare for the drive-in ceremony and to make sure the seven that we missed get their graduation gear.”

Moccia said the best part of the assignment was that they got to see the students.

“We miss them all,” he said. “And I think they miss school. We got so many great photos that are being posted to our Facebook site. It was great to see them again.”

Coronavirus has cancelled the school year and the pomp and circumstance surrounding high school graduation, but OHCHS has found a way to celebrate with a diploma ceremony anyway.

With the traditional ceremony on Jun. 13 cancelled, OHCHS will instead hold a special social-distancing graduation up the road, at the Bridgton Drive-In on Sunday, Jun. 21.

“Jun. 21 is the summer solstice, it’s the longest day of the year,” said Moccia. “So we can’t start a ceremony on a projection screen until almost nine. But the drive-in will open at 7:30 p.m. Each student and their family will be admitted then. The school staff will be lined up – at proper distancing – to greet them as they enter. We want everyone to decorate their car and we will hand out prizes to the top four decked-out vehicles.”

Administrators are taking pains to include the traditions that accompany a graduation. The commencement speeches will be pre-recorded. Each student’s cap-and-gown portrait will be projected on the screen as their name is announced, and they will each walk to the concession stand to receive their diploma.

Moccia said the awarding of the diplomas will be live streamed. Recorded congratulations to the students by their teachers will also air on the screens. And the ceremony will wrap up with the traditional conferring of the tassel from the right to left side of the graduates’ caps.

OHCHS Senior Jacob Taggart of Harrison, left, and Principal Ted Moccia. Supplied photo

After the ceremony, all the graduates will drive to the Oxford Plains Speedway for an 11:30 p.m. fireworks display. Any vehicle with a graduation ticket will be admitted to the speedway, but all are invited to view the celebration from outside the gates.

Moccia is happy that OHCHS students will get a proper send-off from their high school careers. Students and parents need to do their part to make it happen.

“Our Technology Integrator Catherine Emery is creating the graduation video. In order for students to be included in the video wearing their cap and gown, she will need to have a photograph of them in it by May 29. Anyone who misses the deadline, we will use their senior picture instead.

“It’s also important that any student who I was unable to see this week gets their cap and gown. If they have not picked them up at the high school by May 19, they need to contact me to make arrangements to have it mailed to them.”


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