Graduation for the Watchung Hills High School Class of 2014 is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, June 23, Alexis said, confirming earlier discussions and a decision by the school board.
"As we discussed in presentations at open board of education meetings last year, holding the ceremony in the morning gives us the best opportunity to be outdoors in the stadium, where we will not have to impose a limit on tickets per family," Alexis said.
"As we also discussed during those presentations, we conducted an exhaustive search for an off-campus venue two summers ago, but encountered numerous obstacles, from insufficient seating to lengthy travel. And after hearing strong support for staying on campus during a public meeting, we decided to do our best to create a memorable and inclusive ceremony here at home."
At a previous board meeting, School Superintendent and other school officials said the morning graduation was being announced early in the year so parents and other family members could make arrangements to attend early in the day.
Alexis, and other school officials said that there is a risk in committing to an outdoor ceremony, but, he added, "It is a calculated one."
"And after confirming the unsettled, late-afternoon weather patterns the last full week of June this past year, we are confident that we have made the right decision. In fact, late each afternoon last June, there were either thunderstorms or threats of imminent storms. Despite these storms and the accompanying rain, we would have been able to hold the ceremony during the morning hours on any of those days. By beginning early, we also have the option of a postponement for severe weather until later in the morning or early afternoon."
Hunterdon Central has been holding a morning ceremony since 2008, and has not been forced inside by the weather, Alexis pointed out.
"On the other hand, we have had two indoor graduations over the same period of time and received complaints that arose from the insufficient seating capacity and uncomfortable accommodations. The unfortunate truth is that we do not have a satisfactory indoor alternative plan. We have close to 540 senior students and not enough room to accommodate family and guests. At best, we can possibly allow two guests per student to join us in the Performing Arts Center," Alexis said.
If necessary, Jewett had said that the ceremony could be held indoors, but that arrangements to have the students come into the auditorium just to receive their diplomas.
Alexis explained that students would have to be seated in the gym while the ceremony takes place in front of the parents.
"Two years ago, with a much smaller class, we had to make arrangements this way, and we understandably received negative feedback," he said.
"Holding graduation in the morning also allows parents and students to spend time together after the ceremony, and many parents and students see that as a benefit. We do understand that there is a concern that students will not return in the evening for Project Graduation, but the trip planned this year has already generated student interest, and students plan to attend regardless of the time of graduation. We recognize that many of you will have to take a day off from work, so we announced the change last month, ten months in advance," the principal said.
"Your child’s high school graduation occurs once in a lifetime, and we all want the ceremony to be dignified and memorable. Given the size of our current student body and the available contingency plans, the morning schedule provides us with the best opportunity to reach our goal," he said in the letter, printed on the school's website.