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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.

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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