PARIS — Celebrations are making a comeback for Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School students this year. With most everything stalled and then cancelled outright because of the pandemic and Oxford County schools swinging between low and moderate risk categories since last fall, in person events are starting to planned and scheduled.

Things will look decidedly different than in the past, but for OHCHS senior class’ final bow, the themes will be familiar and similar: outside, pod/socially distanced and masked up. Not all dates have been nailed down but educators are forging ahead to give the class of ’21 a proper send-off.

Annual Celebrations

“We will be able to do our annual Tech Awards Night,” said Oxford Hills Tech School Director Paul Bickford. “The Viking Corps Awards will also take place. Both of these ceremonies will take place outside at Gouin Athletic Complex towards the end of May.”

OHCHS juniors and seniors will have to sign a “prom promise,” an agreement to wear a mask and dance no closer than 3 feet. Courtesy Brewster Burns

Prom will also be held on May, with some familiar restrictions, and at least one that may feel a bit odd at first. Only students in OHCHS’ junior and senior classes will be able to attend prom, meaning no underclassmen or dates from out of town.

Music will be supplied by a DJ, and there will be no slow dancing – to accommodate required social distancing of at least three feet. The prom will be held outside, Principal Ted Moccia expects there will be several party tents to help keep things spread out. How many, he declined to guess at the moment.

“No slow dance songs, not sure how that will look,” Moccia laughed. “But the tents will all  be decorated, we will have refreshments, and seating will be according to social distance mandates.”

Senior Events

OHCHS seniors will be able to celebrate together this spring, with proper social distancing. Courtesy Brewster Burns

Senior Assembly, Class Night and Graduation will all happen on school grounds at Gouin Complex.

“Only seniors will be allowed at Assembly,” said Moccia. “But there will be a live stream link so that everyone in the community can watch.

“Class Night, where scholarships are awarded, will be at Gouin Field as well. We expect that close to one million dollars will be distributed this year.”

Graduation is scheduled for Sunday, June 13. If necessary, the rain date will be the following night instead. Students will be given tickets for their families to attend, although Moccia said the number available is still to be determined. Seating will be in family pods, socially distanced apart, both on the field and in the bleachers.

“We are working with Fun Flicks, an outdoor screen projector service, to provide viewing screens of the ceremony,” Moccia said. “It will be more traditional in that students will be seated as a class and walk across a stage to receive their diploma.

“Every year we invite an Oxford Hills graduate as a special guest speaker, someone inspirational. This year it will be Matthew Delamater, who owns Oxbow Brewing, but has also followed his passion for film and the arts.”

Spring Sports

Oxford Hills sports teams are already well into practice. Girls’ tennis and girls’ and boys’ lacrosse are each set for a 12 game season, which starts with lacrosse games on April 15 and wraps up on June 2. The baseball and softball teams play their first and last games on April 19 and June 2, respectively Girls’ and boy’s track and field will take part in 5 meets in April and May.

“We are playing a majority of regional teams, but also trying to play many within the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference,” said Kevin Ryan SAD 17’s athletic director. “We will be facing some new opponents that we either played as scrimmages in previous years, or played at a sub varsity level.

“There will be no county restrictions but transportation is a major challenge for many districts this season. It’s been hard to maintain enough drivers to take care of the school bus routes and then the activity/athletic team runs. MSAD17 is in pretty good shape for transportation and we hope this remains true. The folks at the transportation department do a great job trying to make sure all the trips are covered.”

Spectators will be allowed if they follow proper mask wearing requirements, are socially distant from other spectators and stay out of restricted player spaces and areas.

All teams will be in the playoffs based on an open championship playoff system, a move that will allow teams who may not be able to play a full regular season schedule, due to potential quarantine issues, to participate in the extended season.

“Oxford Hills spring sports teams have been successful in the past several years,” Ryan said. “We expect to compete well against the teams on our schedules, and with all the teams making the playoffs hopefully we can go deep into the playoffs.

“The coaches and athletes are just excited to be able to practice and compete, after having no sports participation last year. We’re off to a successful start already, just being on the fields practicing for the upcoming season.”

Project Graduation

For the second year in a row, COVID-19 has impacted Oxford Hills’ Project Graduation. Last year it was cancelled outright, although each graduate received a gift bag.

“This year there won’t be the traditional celebration after graduation,” said OHCHS teacher and Project Graduation co-representative Jeni Cash-Jordan. “Instead Project Graduation will sponsor the Senior Class Picnic.

“We plan to hand out hundreds of dollars in raffle items that traditionally happen at Project Graduation. We have created an Amazon link where people can purchase items and have them shipped directly to the school.”

Fundraising for Project Graduation has been difficult due to the pandemic and a smaller committee. Jordan said a “Cash for the Class” fundraiser is currently underway, asking for people to donate $20.21. Brenda Moore, who the chairs the committee, is also working on a radio-a-thon with independent radio station WOXO to raise money.

“If fundraising goes as we hope, our goal is to give each senior a ‘Senior Trip in a Bag’ since the traditional senior trip is cancelled this year,” Jordan said. “Each bag will have beach items and a pass to a local state park, as well as other items donated by the community.

“We are very thankful to the Oxford Hills community for all the donations they have made to help support our senior class of 2021.”

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