Indoor graduation may happen at Dallas

First Posted: 1/20/2014

With the completion of the new Dallas Senior High School in 2013, seniors and their families had the opportunity last year to graduate in the safety and comfort of a new 1400 person capacity auditorium. Rain threatened outside, but the new auditorium had 75 to 100 extra empty seats, recalls Frank Galicki, Dallas School District superintendent.

A comfortable indoor graduation, after all, (especially in bad weather) was one of the reasons the school district built such a large auditorium and building in the first place.

This year the recommendation from principal Jeff Shafer, who heads the school’s graduation advisory committee, is to hold the graduation ceremony indoors, regardless of the weather. Shaffer told seniors of his recommendation during an assembly at the school.

Shaffer said he could even tweak the school’s seating capacity to 1600 to accommodate extra attendees. At that rate, each graduate would have about five to seven tickets for family members who want to attend.

Shaffer explained some of his reasoning to let students know ahead of time what he’s thinking in an attempt to “be more transparent” to the public about the school’s decision-making processes.

“It’s easier to create a more dignified and respectful atmosphere indoors,” Shaffer said, adding an indoor ceremony would eliminate graduation nuisances like airplane message banners, ATVs , fire trucks in a nearby field and a wandering audience, as well as fireworks, beach balls, balloons and graduation toys that go along with graduation but often spoil the ceremony.

In order for the event to be held outside, however, this year’s graduation would need a new stage and a better public address system, Shaffer told the students, a dollar investment to which the school district does not want to commit.

Another consideration is the cost of replacing, building or renting a graduation platform.

The cost of renting a 40 x 24 x 24 -oot staging area costs about $2,000 plus installation and handicapped–access costs.

But the biggest consideration for the school is the work involved in setting up for graduation in two places – indoors as well as outdoors – for the district’s four- man maintenance crew, said Galicki.

At a school board meeting on Jan. 13, about 30 parents spoke in favor of having the ceremony outdoors. Debbie Katyl, the mother of senior Mary Kate Katyl, said, “We want the ceremony outdoors; the atmosphere is beautiful and we can have an unlimited number of guests outdoors.”

Sherry Newell, a newly-elected member to the school board and the mother of a graduating senior, said she would vote against an indoor graduation.

According to both Galicki and Shaffer, the final decision has not yet been made and details for the 2014 commencement ceremony scheduled forJune 6 are still open for discussion and consideration.

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