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After rainout, commencement might move

Last year's nearly rained out Park High School graduation has prompted a proposal to move ceremonies to Aldrich Arena in Maplewood.

A meeting for parents will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, to discuss the proposal that's already been debated by the school's site team and a group of parents on Nov. 6.

Parents were invited to the meeting through the school's e-mail lists, Principal Efe Agbamu said.

Superintendent Mark Porter, upon hearing the proposal, suggested another meeting be held "so there is a clear understanding of the factors involved" in making the decision at mid-year.

There are a number of venues large enough for high school graduations, but the timeframe of the second week of June has many booked up to a year in advance, according to Agbamu.

If parents are favorable at the January meeting, graduation would be held on Saturday evening, June 12.

Woodbury High School holds graduation at Aldrich Arena. There will be no graduation at East Ridge because the school won't have seniors until next year.

When Park's graduation was forced indoors last year, it created a problem because the gym seats 1,740, according to the fire code, which was probably exceeded, Agbamu said.

With each of the more than 500 graduates allowed two tickets, many people had to watch the ceremony on television in the auditorium.

Children of parents who have divorced and re-married others are forced to choose which parents can attend, Agbamu said

If the ceremony were held in the large gym at East Ridge, students would still be restricted to two tickets, she said.

Some parents told her last year's graduation should have been held the next night in the stadium. Agbamu said the school rented a sound system, as it does every year, for $3,000 and had to pay whether or not it was used. Holding it the next night would have doubled the cost.

Agbamu had many e-mails from parents asking why Park continues to hold graduation in the stadium.

Aldrich holds 3,000 people and is available for $3,000, Agbamu said, and parking is free.

Woodbury gives each student seven tickets.

Roy Wilkins Auditorium in River Centre in St. Paul was rented for graduation the year the new stadium field and track was under construction.

It's available on Sunday, June 13, the same day as Woodbury's graduation.

Wilkins seats 5,000, but the rental fee is $7,000 and doesn't include use of a downstairs hall as a waiting area, a video screen and projectors that would add $4,000.

Families would also have to pay up to $15 for parking.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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