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Morning Commencement Considered at High School

Administrators eye several graduation options in hopes of avoiding complications.

After scouring the area for available venues with enough space to host a Watchung Hills Regional commencement exercises, school officials ultimately acknowledged the best possible location is right in the school's backyard.

But too many times in recent years, Tozier Stadium has been abandoned in favor of indoor graduation, either because of unbearably high temperatures (think Class of 2012) or expected thunderstorms (think Class of 2011).

At Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, Principal George Alexis and vice principals Patricia Toubin and Terry MacConnell presented a possible solution to both problems: morning commencement. 

"We've sat here, year after year, and as the day progresses, in come the clouds," Toubin said, referring to the executive committee that determines whether graduation will be inside or out—usually within hours of the start.

She said the idea came after area schools were polled to find other ideas for graduation. Hunterdon Central High School, in Flemington, which also has large graduating classes too big for most venues, began holding graduation in the mornings several years ago—and hasn't looked back.

Consequently, Watchung Hills Regional is looking at scheduling commencement for the Class of 2013 for 10 a.m. June 21.

The fly in the ointment, of course, is still the weather—and if the ceremony is forced inside, things get trickier.

Toubin noted last year's graduation held in the Performing Arts Center went well, but students and parents complained about the separation caused by having parents in the PAC and students in another room.

But this year's class is larger than last year's, and if the same plan was used, each graduate couldn't be assured of seating both parents in the PAC for ceremony.

So the group proposed a double ceremony—half the class at 10 a.m., half at 2 p.m. and everybody in the PAC.

"Of course, the unsatisfactory part is only half the class is there," Toubin said.

The plan is not set in stone yet—and Superintendent Frances Stromsland added weather could still cause school closings, forcing graduation into the following week, but she added there is an upside.

"The news is we're going to stay home," she said.  

That much, at least, is settled.

LB January 24, 2013 at 04:54 AM
Something about dividing the class just doesn't seem right. :(
Fennimore Plumbing & Heating LLC January 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM
2007 weather 2009 weather 2010 weather 2011 & 12 weather. Do you see trend here? An alternate venue needs to be considered. 3 children here 3 graduations with weather issues. Could not attend neices graduatins due to wait for it.......weather.
Penny January 24, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Many schools are using the Prudential Center in Newark for graduation. The students are bused to and from graduation. The building is large enouh for all family members to attend. The class of 2014 is the largest the school has. I agree dividing the class isn't right. Finding a large facility is the best choice, even if the ceremony is in the morning.
Holly January 24, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Mennen Arena in Morris Plains offers a graduation ceremony WITH air conditioning. 10-12 tickets per family. Plenty of parking, however patience is needed departing as there's only one lane to get out.
LB January 24, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Would be more convenient, obviously, if a facility closer to home could be found. I wonder about RVCC. What facility do they have and would it be able to be used?
Nancy January 25, 2013 at 05:58 PM
The way this administration has handled some other things, this lame solution doesn't surprise me. I would love to know how many other places were called (if any) to see who could accomodate the class. It's not like we live in the middle of Iowa; there are plenty of large venues around. 7 months have passed since the last grad, only 5 months left till the next one, and they just get around to this issue NOW? And what does this do to Project Graduation? C'mon WHRHS, you can come up with better than this...I'll even make the phone calls for you!!
Susan January 25, 2013 at 07:28 PM
It's clear that the administration is not up to the challenge of coming up with a viable inclement weather policy for graduation. It's great to see everyone commenting here on the Patch, but if we want to have an impact and force them to actually produce acceptable results, parents and students must voice opinions directly to the Administration and Board of Ed. Consult the WHRHS website for email addresses and phone numbers, AND MAKE YOURSELF HEARD. Parental inaction will result in a disappointing graduation day, unless, as the administration is clearly hoping, it doesn't rain. No one can control the weather, but we CAN control our response to the lame effort that's been put forth by the school. Please speak up!
LB January 25, 2013 at 09:24 PM
I'm not sure where Project Graduation is being held. Just a thought: is there someplace at that site where the graduation ceremony can take place?
dennis christy January 27, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Separating the Seniors should not be an option. I think an alternate site is the best assurance. I'm sure June 21 will be a beautiful weather day after all the planning...
Green Brook Resident January 28, 2013 at 12:40 PM
What happened to using the Rutgers Athletic Center?
Susan M. January 30, 2013 at 10:25 PM
I was under the impression that this was a done deal already voted upon by the BOE. Graduation has been changed to Friday 10am. No discussion, no public input. As if the impending splitting of the classes isn't bad enough, they (the BOE) has essentially killed any and all plans for Project Graduation, No one who is graduating at 10am is going to want to come back to the school at 9pm. The students will go home, go out with relatives, begin to party and never come back. There goes any type of safe atmosphere that Project Graduation works so hard to provide. Guess we know where the BOE's priorities lie.
Susan M. January 30, 2013 at 10:27 PM
The RAC doesn't have air conditioning, but, who cares? There is no air conditioning outdoors on the turf field and there is no air conditioning in Gym 7/8. This nullifying the RAC as an option just further proves that their end goal was to have the commencement outside regardless of whatever viable options there were to keep the class together and at the previously scheduled time.
Green Brook Resident January 30, 2013 at 10:35 PM
I was going to ask about project graduation. You know there will be parents out there allowing their kids to have big pool parties and such. This will start another bad annual ritual akin to prom weekend down the shore. I think it's not too late for the BOE to change plans if that's what the public wants and needs.
Green Brook Resident January 30, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Also Susan, if they do come back for Project Graduation who is to say in what condition.....
Susan M. January 30, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Exactly. And if they do come back to Project Graduation not sober, the PG chaperones wouldn't even let them board the buses. So the whole idea of PG goes out the window and we run the risk of many graduates driving around in cars under the influence.
Green Brook Resident January 31, 2013 at 06:34 PM
The plans are now up on the HS website. I think we should spread the word.
Susan M. February 01, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Everyone who has an issue with our children having a potential "split session" graduation and having the BOE take away Project Graduation should come to the BOE meeting Monday, February 4, 2013 at 7pm in the Media Center at the high school.

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