School board considers change to graduation ceremony dates

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJuly 18, 2014 

STOCK

Starting next spring, Beaufort County's five high school graduations could all take place over two days.

The Board of Education is considering a proposal to condense the school district's graduation ceremonies -- which usually occur over an entire week, with each high school on its own day -- to Friday and Saturday.

This option is meant to assist students who have friends and relatives traveling from out of town or wanting to attend multiple graduations, according to school board member Geri Kinton, who first suggested the board explore the idea.

She said she has received phone calls and emails from students upset that several people were unable to attend their ceremonies.

"Graduation is a big occasion and having them on different nights all throughout the week does make it difficult for family, especially from out of town, to come in for the ceremony," Kinton said.

Under the proposal, two graduations would be held Friday and three Saturday. After the new high school in greater Bluffton opens for the 2016-17 school year, three graduations would be held each day.

The southern Beaufort County high schools would be held one day and the northern high schools the next. Each year, the schools would rotate graduation days, according to head of student services Gregory McCord.

He said that many districts of similar size throughout the state hold their ceremonies over just a few days. However, McCord said those districts often are not as spread out as Beaufort County, and many have a large venue to host all the graduations.

Here, the ceremonies would continue to be held at each school, he said, but likely would be moved inside to avoid the uncertainty of inclement weather. They would be scheduled three hours apart to allow for travel between each, he added.

Hilton Head Island High School principal Amanda O'Nan likes the proposal, but added that the district should ensure the ceremonies remain unique to each school.

"I think it's a great idea and one they have talked about off and on over the years," she said. "They just need to ensure our kids have the opportunity to maintain their specialized graduations and the only change is the time, date or place."

However, several board members worry the change could actually prevent family and community members from attending.

Board member Earl Campbell said many people in Beaufort County work in the hospitality industry and couldn't take off on a Friday or Saturday.

He also said that holding the ceremonies indoors instead of in football stadiums significantly reduces the space each school has for guests.

Before making any changes, the school board wants feedback from high school students and parents about the proposal. It will then consider the responses and decide what, if any, changes to make, board chairman Bill Evans said.

One former Beaufort High School graduate said he wished the proposal had been in place in June. Dustin Mullins was unable to attend his younger sister's Beaufort High School graduation, held this year on a Tuesday. He said he could not take off several days mid-week from his internship in Washington, D.C.

"I find it to be completely unfair to my sister that neither of her brothers were able to attend her graduation because it had to be on a weeknight," Mullins said. "Had the graduation been on a Friday or Saturday, I could have attended."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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