Smithfield High School to hold outdoor graduation

Published 1:19 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

Smithfield High School will have its graduation outside this year, despite the results of a parent poll that indicated a desire for an indoor, off-site venue.  

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Last year, when the graduation was held on the school’s Packer Field, the temperature pushed into the upper nineties and nine attendees required medical attention.

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This year, while the ceremony will be held in the same location, school officials said there will be additional safeguards in place to help those in attendance. This means more shade provided by more tents and water to keep guests hydrated, according to school spokesperson Lynn Briggs. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

There will also be golf carts available to shuttle people who need help from the parking lot to the stadium.

SHS parent Shinah Lemon voiced her concerns with the decision to hold graduation outside at last week’s school board meeting.

“I did not attend the graduation last year because I did not want to subject myself to the heat,” Lemon told the Board.

But this year her child will walk across the stage and she will be there.

Lemon said later that she isn’t as worried about herself, but said others who aren’t as healthy could struggle with the heat.

The School Board voted last year on a proposal to move the graduation off-site, but the proposal failed in a 4-1 vote. Then board member Denise Tynes, who suggested the move, cast the only vote in favor of it.

At last week’s School Board meeting, Board Chair Julia Perkins said the graduation location is a decision left up to the school, saying the board has never cast a vote that would change that.

When parents were asked to complete the survey last year, holding it on the football field wasn’t even an option. Parents were asked if they would like the graduation to be in the school’s gym or at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. Of the 352 people who completed the survey, 220 said they’d like the graduation to be in the convention center.

Parents choose the convention center despite the $15,000-a-year fee the school system would have to pay to rent the facility.  {/mprestriction}