Norfolk venue for all graduations

Published 8:44 pm Monday, August 18, 2014

With almost two-thirds of survey respondents preferring the out-of-town venue to the campus, the Suffolk School Board has supported moving Lakeland High School’s 2015 graduation ceremony to Norfolk’s Ted Constant Convocation Center.

The district surveyed the families of Lakeland’s rising juniors and seniors in July, attracting a 67-percent response rate, Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis reported at last week’s board meeting.

For the classes of 2015 and 2016 combined, 64 percent of responding families stated a preference for the Norfolk venue. The support was slightly less for rising seniors, and slightly more for rising juniors.

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This year, King’s Fork and Nansemond River had their ceremonies at the convocation center on the same day, while Lakeland’s was held on the school’s athletics field.

The ceremonies in Norfolk were generally deemed a success, while hot conditions led to some complaints about Lakeland’s outdoor event.

Where graduation ceremonies take place became an issue in recent previous years because of a lack of capacity in high school auditoriums and concerns about inclement weather if events were held outside.

According to information presented during an earlier School Board meeting, with security, chair rentals and other costs, holding all three events in Norfolk is the cheaper option.

The latest survey results differed from those of an earlier survey involving all three high schools. In 2013, more than 55 percent of the class of 2014 said they preferred an out-of-town venue where they could have more tickets to distribute to family and friends.

More than half of respondents at King’s Fork and Nansemond River said they would prefer a graduation ceremony at an indoor venue outside the city with at least 10 tickets per graduate. However, fewer than half of Lakeland respondents — 48 percent — said in the earlier survey that they would prefer to have it out of town. About 40 percent at that school said they would prefer 10 tickets for the school’s football stadium.

During Thursday’s meeting, Chavis said the latest survey included both seniors and juniors “to make sure we get a good sample and get a clear indication of the desires of that community.”

Board Chairman Michael Debranski suggested officials contact Ted Constant Convocation Center “as soon as we can” to book in all three 2015 ceremonies.

Vice Chair Enoch Copeland’s motion to “accept the vote from the senior class and the junior class” was supported unanimously, with Lorraine Skeeter absent from the vote.