Ag Society agrees to host drive-in graduation as Plan B

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The grounds of the Ag Society will be used for a drive-in high school graduation. —Gabrielle Mannino

Updated 

West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday evening to authorize the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society to host the 2020 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduation ceremony. The event will be “largely in cars,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said. 

Ag Society executive director Kristina West said the Ag Society trustees are in favor of the event. “The high school seniors have been through a bit, as we all have, and we’d like to offer the grounds so they could have something special for their graduation,” she said.

In an email late Wednesday, Matt Malowski, school adjustment counselor at MVRHS, told The Times the Ag Society property is a backup plan. The high school is still pursuing a graduation ceremony at The Tabernacle. “If the Tabernacle is not an option, then we would be looking at the Ag Hall as Plan B,” Malowski wrote. 

Ag Society neighbor Hunter Moorman said such extraordinary times likely warrant exception to any restrictions on the property. He cautioned the board to consider carefully that they don’t establish a precedent. That said, he noted West had indicated the ceremony was intended as a one-time event.

“Class night is usually something that normally happens the night before graduation,” high school principal Sara Dingledy told the board. “We’re kind of still in the plans as to how that would roll into one sort of event. I just don’t want that to get lost.”

Dingledy went on to say what the final combined event will look like is still in development. 

Asked by Mitchell where the Tabernacle fits into school planning, Dingledy said, “It’s a huge unknown. The Tabernacle is obviously a smaller more contained space even though it’s also outside.”

Class advisor Amy Lilavois said the board overseeing the Tabernacle meets next week to determine “if they’re even going to open or not for any sort of event.”

Lilavois said she was told “if it can happen it will happen” but suggested the school look elsewhere. 

“As much as we want to do it at the Tabernacle, we want to do it for the kids at the Tabernacle, the likelihood of that happening, I feel is slim to none.”

Senior class president Alex Rego thanked the board. “I just wanted to extend my gratitude to you all, on behalf of the class of 2020, for even considering this proposal — just for showing great compassion; it’s very much appreciated,” she said. 

Selectman Kent Healy spoke in favor of the event.

“This appears to be a community event, which is allowed,” Tisbury building inspector Joe Tierney told the board. “And we have in the past let the West Tisbury School have their graduation there.”

Selectman Skipper Manter expressed reservations, but ultimately supported the ceremony with a vote of “ouch, aye.”

The ceremony still requires a vote by the board of health. No date has been settled on yet.

However in a proposal sent to the Ag Society June 28 and July 26 are under consideration. 

Ag Society president Brian Athearn later said “it’s terrific that the Ag Society can help contribute to the community this way. It’s such a staple of our community and our society that kids have a graduation.”

Updated with comment from Malowski. -ed.