For years, each of Valley Stream’s three high schools have hosted graduation ceremonies on the same day and at the same time, with hundreds of students completing the final chapter in their grade school careers. But for the Central High School class of 2013, graduation will most likely have a change date, time and scenery.
The Valley Stream Central High School District Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of pursuing to move Central’s graduation to an off-site facility at it’s meeting on Nov. 13. Central Principal Dr. Joseph Pompilio discussed the possibility of moving the ceremony with students and parents earlier this year, and he said the response was overwhelmingly in favor of it. Similar studies were conducted at North and South high schools, but the response was in favor of keeping the ceremonies at those respective schools.
“It’s somewhat different at North and South where as a 12-year-old you enter a building and you become very much attached to it,” said Superintendent Dr. Bill Heidenreich. “Not to say that Central and Memorial students aren’t attached to their respective school, but it’s different because they walk across the street and they’re not in the school that they’ve been in for the past three years.”
Rain has forced graduation ceremonies to be held indoors for the last two years, making conditions stressful and confining, Pompilio said. If there is inclement weather, graduation for Central is held in nearby Memorial’s gymnasium. “You wake up, unlike North and South, and you don’t know where your graduation is,” he said.
Both North and South have the capacity to hold its graduation ceremonies indoors, while Central does not. Last year, approximately 220 students graduated from North and South, and 350 Central students received diplomas — at Memorial.
Tom Troisi, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, conducted a study earlier in the school year to determine the potential cost of moving graduation to an off-site facility like the Hofstra University Arena or the Tilles Center at C.W. Post. It was concluded that having the graduation off-site or on-site is cost neutral.
Heidenreich cited chair rentals and custodial overtime as expenses that wouldn’t be needed if the event changed locations. Instead, the district would simply have to rent the space. Also, Pompilio noted, an off-site location would mean unlimited seating, where as at Memorial, students are limited to three tickets each.
Isha Walia will be graduating from Central in June and is class president. She said there are many students on each side of this decision, but she firmly believes that graduation should remain at Central.
“Graduating anywhere else is basically just irrelevant,” she said. “We’re graduating from Central, so we should literally do that. Besides, nothing beats graduating at your own school. It’s more personal.”
Walia said she and her classmates would lose the intimacy if they graduated elsewhere, but added there would be potential to start a new tradition at an off-site facility, plus there would be air conditioning and more space.
“I think it’s a very positive thing for Central because graduation is extremely important in the lives of parents and kids,” Pompilio said, “and you want to make it the best possible location for them.”
Following the board meeting on Nov. 13, district administrators began reaching out to nearby venues to check on availability, and plan on having a date picked soon. “If we are going to book a date and time it has to happen quickly,” Heidenreich said, noting that many schools have already booked their graduation venues.
When a decision is reached by district administration, it will go back to the board for approval since the district would be entering into a contract with the venue operator, Heidenreich said.