June 13, with a rain date of June 14, the 126 members of the Class of 2020 of Morse High School in Bath will graduate at Wiscasset Municipal Airport, Airport Manager Rick Tetrev said in a phone interview Wednesday morning at the airport. He and volunteer Paul Harvey of Richmond were out picking up the branches all the wind has been taking down, Tetrev said.
Laughing, he said he was starting early on getting the airport ready for the graduation of the high school. Regional School Unit 1, which serves Woolwich, Bath, Arrowsic and Phippsburg, will set up and run the event, which will close the airport to air traffic for the seven or eight hours of set up and ceremony, he said. Tetrev said he first heard the idea a week ago Monday from Morse Principal Eric Varney.
“I just thought it was a great thing to do and something that we could pull off,” Tetrev, a former Naval commander, said. “I’ve been involved with events at (Naval Air Station Brunswick) and (Bath) Heritage Days and things like that. So I am not afraid.” And he said he read Daytona Speedway in Florida is hosting a graduation, “so then I really wasn’t afraid.”
He has never heard of a high school graduation at an airport. What does having it there represent for Wiscasset? “Well, I think it represents for us that we can be an example to the state and the country how citizens can work together.”
Tetrev said participants will be in cars, about 240 cars, which shouldn’t be hard getting them in, but getting them back onto Route 1 will be more of an effort, he added. Attendees won’t be needing the terminal building or its bathroom; the RSU is getting portable toilets that will be spaced six feet apart, Tetrev said.
RSU 1 will pay the airport $20 per graduate, Tetrev said. “It covers the people with them and covers our expenses, including lost air traffic that day, he said. “There’ll be done other incidentals,” such as labor, including Wiscasset Police and EMS working with Bath Police and EMS, he said. “It’s a joint effort which, again, makes it nice.”
Tetrev, of Woolwich, graduated high school from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. Will he be at the airport for Morse’s graduation? “Oh, absolutely.”
Wiscasset Town Manager John O’Connell noted the event in Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting.
Varney told Morse seniors in a May 8 letter viewable at rsu1.org. It reads in part: “Despite significant constraints on what is safe and permissable during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to announce that we have secured the community support and funding to have a historic and truly special celebration for your class. This graduation event will surely occupy a page in the next edition of The History of Bath, Maine! ... With true flexibility and generosity, the town of Wiscasset has permitted us to temporarily close the airport, allowing graduates and family members the space to remain in cars and experience a ceremony that is as close to traditional as the June restrictions allow,” including speeches and awarding diplomas individually, Varney wrote.