A good move on graduations

Published 1:17 pm Monday, March 18, 2013

High school students and their parents will get their wish in June, when the Suffolk school system goes back to holding graduation ceremonies in the stadiums at Lakeland, King’s Fork and Nansemond River high schools. School Board members voted unanimously on Thursday to move the commencement exercises out of the schools’ gymnasiums, which have proved too small for students to be able to invite all the family and friends they wanted to have on hand to witness their big day.

The issue has simmered in the consciousness of school officials and new sets of seniors for the past several years, but it came to a boil last June, when ticket-holders were turned away from Nansemond River High School, because the gym was already full.

Under the former arrangement, each student was allotted four tickets for the gymnasium at his or her school and two for the auditorium, where ticket-holders could watch the event unfold on video. Even that arrangement proved inadequate last year, and a contingent of Nansemond River parents that did not arrive in time to find seating went away angry at being left out of an important life moment for the graduates they had come to support.

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The problem prompted a three-year study of the issue by the School Board, and fear of repeating last year’s incident caused members to press ahead with Thursday’s vote to hold the events outside and allocate 10 tickets to each graduate, even though it was acknowledged as an imperfect solution to the problem. Members also had considered moving the ceremonies to the Norfolk Scope Arena or some other facility outside of the city, but there was a consensus that Suffolk graduations should be held in Suffolk.

Thursday’s decision holds for just the 2013 graduations, though, as board members acknowledged some weighty concerns about the solution. Midday commencement exercises in June are likely to be hot, humid affairs, and rain on graduation day would drive the proceedings back into the gymnasium, with limited opportunity to control who gets in and who does not.

Still, for those intent on seeing their graduates receive their diplomas, Thursday’s decision was a refreshing example of elected officials being responsive to the desires of the voters. It can only be hoped those same voters remember, when it’s 90 degrees with 80-percent humidity, that they got what they asked for.