Norfolk experience a good one

Published 8:38 pm Monday, June 8, 2015

Suffolk Public Schools graduated a combined 871 high school seniors on Saturday, and the ceremonies at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk were a resounding success.

The city’s three public high schools had individualized ceremonies at the same venue three hours apart, starting at 9 a.m.

There were plenty of spare seats, which showed the venue has plenty of capacity for graduates’ families and friends. School district spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw reported attendance was 2,052 for Lakeland High School, 4,286 for King’s Fork High School and 4,490 for Nansemond River High School.

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District officials ran a tight ship. The ceremonies lasted only 90 minutes or so, leaving plenty of time for the changeovers.

But graduates and their loved ones still got a full experience.

There might have been contention from some that the ceremonies weren’t even in Suffolk, let alone at the schools. But I didn’t see any indication of it; folks were too busy dancing, cheering and taking photos.

It’s worth recapping the road that led to this winning formula.

Where the ceremonies are held became an issue a few years ago when some folks with tickets were turned away from high school auditoriums that lacked the capacity for all the family and friends attending the event.

And with the risk of inclement weather, officials were leery about planning to hold the events outside.

After seniors’ families were surveyed, the School Board first opted for Ted Constant for 2014.

But while Nansemond River and King’s Fork dipped their toes in the water at the larger, out-of-town venue, Lakeland had its graduation ceremony on the athletics field last year — on a hot, sultry afternoon.

Anyone who was there won’t quickly forget it.

The board voted to move Lakeland’s ceremony to Ted Constant after surveying the families of its rising juniors and seniors. The survey found 64 percent of responding families preferred the Norfolk venue.

So that’s how all three ceremonies ended up at ODU, which is actually cheaper than staging them outside at the schools, taking into account security, chair rentals and other costs.

Maybe one day Suffolk will have its own venue with enough capacity to bring the high school graduations home again. But until that day, having them at ODU really does seem to be the best option.

Saturday’s ceremonies were also streamed live on YouTube. Bradshaw reported total views were 513 for Lakeland, 725 for King’s Fork and 777 for Nansemond River.

For those who saw them with the naked eye, it was a little bit of a drive into possibly unfamiliar territory, but one well worth it.

Good luck, graduates.