No more ‘Survivor’ graduations

Published 11:08 pm Thursday, June 12, 2014

In the end, it might all come down to comfort, and there’s something to be said for comfort, after all.

The great, interminable debate about where to hold graduation ceremonies for Suffolk’s public high schools may very well have been settled on the football field at Lakeland High School on Saturday.

With graduates and faculty members sweltering under long, nylon gowns and with family and friends of all ages and all health situations sweltering on hot sideline bleachers and hiding from the merciless sun under umbrellas, handkerchiefs or whatever scraps of paper they could find to cover their heads, Lakeland’s Saturday afternoon commencement seemed at times to be more “Survivor” than “Lean on Me.”

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The Cavalier seniors were the only public school students to graduate in Suffolk on Saturday. Sunny skies ensured they could do so outside — and, more important, that they would not face draconian limitations to the number of spectators they could invite to the ceremony. But those same sunny June skies meant temperatures — and, occasionally, tempers — were on the rise as the afternoon progressed.

Contrast that situation with the graduations held at Old Dominion University’s Ted Constant Convocation Center for Nansemond River and King’s Fork high schools, and the Suffolk School Board’s decision to move commencement ceremonies for those schools across the Elizabeth River — into a large, enclosed, air-conditioned facility — suddenly seems like a stroke of genius.

Surely some students and their families were inconvenienced by their drive to Norfolk, but all in all, the trip out of Suffolk was probably less of an inconvenience than spending three hours wondering whether Grandma would wind up with heat stroke while waiting for her favorite grandchild to get his seven sweaty seconds in the spotlight.

Furthermore, the arena in Norfolk is big enough to host all of the aunts and uncles and second cousins any Suffolk graduate could want to invite, unlike any of the gymnasiums into which Suffolk graduates and their few select A-list guests have been squeezed in previous years when the weather would not allow them to have their ceremonies outside.

The matter of a graduation venue for Suffolk Public Schools should now be well and truly put to rest. In fact, administrators should be on the phone with the folks at The Ted this month to reserve the arena for the use of all three high schools next year.

Graduation Day should be a time of celebrating academic achievement, not a time for culling the weakest from the crowd of spectators.