Wiscasset School Department announced Friday, Wiscasset Middle High School’s Class of 2020 will graduate at Wiscasset Speedway instead of in the school lot as first announced. The fireworks at the school and the procession though town are still on, according to Principal Charles Lomonte’s letter to seniors, friends and families.
“We are honored” and thrilled, Vanessa Jordan said of her and husband Richard’s feelings about having graduation at their speedway on West Alna Road June 11, with a rain date of June 12. Until she heard from Lomonte around the beginning of the week and from seniors’ families they know from the speedway, she hadn’t realized the tough spot schools are in this year due to COVID-19 precautions.
Jordan said the speedway is charging the town nothing. “This is our community and I was flabbergasted when I realized what the kids were up against,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m sure it’s not the graduation that they envisioned. But hopefully we can make it closer, because now they can have their parents and their grandparents and their brothers and sisters because we have enough space for everybody.” Lomonte’s letter notes the graduation “is still a drive-in event only for families and guests. State guidelines allow for only 50 persons (graduates and speakers) out of their vehicles. Graduates and non-speaking participants will be required to wear masks in accordance with state guidelines.”
School Committee Chair Michael Dunn said of the Jordans’ letting the town use the space for free: “They are very generous, and have shown a real desire to support the community.” Dunn added in the text response, “We're lucky to have so many great people to work with in Wiscasset!”
Dunn said he is excited about the venue change because the students are excited about it. “I hope they have a great time, in spite of the current environment we're in, and that they realize how important their success and happiness is to the community.”
Kelly Willey said in a phone interview, now more of the family of her stepson, Billy Pinkham, can be there for the ceremony. Willey said she had urged for the move to the speedway, where Pinkham’s father Bill Pinkham has been driving since he was a Wiscasset High School senior.
The elder Pinkham said about the updated graduation plan, “I think it’s going to be a great thing. Everything is so out of order right now, and that’s a great facility. I think to bring the two together is a great thing.”
The decision came after a poll of the whole senior class showed most respondents favored the change, according to Lomonte’s letter.
Senior Kateleen Trask said in a phone interview, “I think it’s better because we can have more people come see us.” Her father Mike Trask agreed. “I’m fine with it. The more people that are able to attend – good.”
The school will use the speedway’s speaker system in the ceremony, Jordan said. “We’ll get our speakers and lights all cleaned up (and) of course make it pretty” for the event, including a sign for the graduates, she said.
The speedway would have started its racing season last month if state COVID-19 guidelines had allowed it, Jordan said. She still expects to have a season, hopefully sooner rather than later, she said.