Courtesy of the Roseville Joint Union High School District
High school graduation is an important day for many graduates and their families.
However, planning for the big day also comes with a lot of stress because of the large number of uncontrollable factors.
Granite Bay High School graduations have been held on campus every year since the school held its first ceremony in 1999. Being an outdoor venue, however, has posed serious concerns regarding the health and safety of the students, staff and families.
“Every year, we have (heat-related) issues,” said Joseph Landon, a Roseville Joint Union High School District assistant superintendent. “Whether it’s a grandparent, parent or student having heat issues … there’s just so much more of an unpredictability (with the weather).”
In response to the safety concerns, the district held board meetings to discuss the possibility of hosting future graduation ceremonies at an indoor facility off campus.
In January, Placer Valley Tourism launched a $34-million project to build a new event center that will host sporting events, meetings, concerts and, possibly, high school graduation ceremonies.
“We (have) a relationship with (Placer Valley Tourism), and when we heard about this new facility that they are building … (it seemed to resolve) the difficulties we’ve had with graduations in the stadiums … at our school sites,” Landon said. “We set up more details, and the more we thought about it, the more (it seemed) to be something that’s worth considering.”
In order to accurately weigh the pros and cons of moving the venue, the district sent out a survey to parents and students to gather public input. Evidently, one major pro was the cost savings for the entire district.
“There’s cost savings in regards to dollars, but also time,” Landon said. “We’ve got five comprehensive school sites – there’s a lot of setup costs of just labor for each venue, (as opposed to) if we’re only doing that once.”
In addition to saving money, the new venue will be more modern and include advanced technology to enhance the graduation experience.
“Some other benefits (of the new venue include) air conditioning, being indoors (and) also being able to have a better audio visual (with) screens and TVs, where they can project … a better view of students getting their diploma,” Landon said.
Sarah Budean, a junior at GBHS, has been to four graduation ceremonies for her older siblings who all graduated from GBHS. In her opinion, the sun and sound system decreased the quality of the ceremony.
“The direct sunlight (made the event) very hot and bright, (and) the bleachers were hot (to sit on) as well,” Budean said. She added that it was hard to hear during the ceremony, and the sound system didn’t project well throughout the entire stadium.
The biggest concern, as expressed by families and students, is the loss of tradition and the connection to the campus.
“There may be families who have grandparents, parents and (others), who (have graduated) at the school site,” Landon said. “So, there is a kind of nostalgia (aspect that comes with the campus).”
Meghan Cole, a GBHS English teacher and alum who graduated in 2012, has a strong connection with the campus and community.
“There is a sense of home when you graduate on your campus (as well as a) feeling of familiarity and contentedness,” Cole said. “The thing that makes me the most sad is the loss of tradition, and the ceremonies (will be) less personalized,”
Also, having all the district’s schools hold their graduation ceremonies at the same location diminishes the quality of each ceremony because of time constraints.
“Timing will be much more important as it will be an in-and-out type ceremony to ensure that the next group coming through has enough time for parking,” Cole said. “So, the special speeches and traditions we have at GBHS may no longer be able to happen depending on timing.”
Despite the nostalgia element, Cole is receptive to the new changes because they will be more beneficial in the long-run.
“I understand all of the points the district is making about the increased safety and convenience of the new off-campus site,” Cole said. “I recognize that it may end up being the best solution (for) all of the district’s current concerns, but I guess I am just sad for the next generations of students who will not get to experience the same thing I did.”
Unlike Cole, Sarah Budean’s older brother, Jacob Budean, does not have a strong connection to the campus and thinks the loss-of-tradition aspect should not greatly alter the decision process because it only applies to a few individuals.
“The loss of tradition does not really matter because (it) is probably only relevant to (some) teachers and parents,” Jacob said. “I think moving the location would be fine as long as it does not require locals to have to travel a great distance to get there.”
Ultimately, despite the loss of tradition, Landon said he believes the new venue would be beneficial in the long-run.
“I think the pros outweigh the cons,” Landon said. “Change is always hard and different, until you … see what it’s like.”
After collecting the survey data, Landon said most of those who responded are fairly positive about the potential new graduation venue.
“It seemed to me that there was general support,” Landon said. “There (were) definitely some concerns … but it seems likely that (the school board) will accept it.”
Although nothing is confirmed, if the board approves the proposal, the class of 2020 will be the class to commence the new tradition.
“We are going to recommend that the board approve (this proposal),” Landon said. “If we move in this direction, (the administration) can focus on supporting the kids in the last week of school as opposed to so much energy going into graduation details.”
Editor’s note: After this story was published in the print edition, the Roseville Joint Union High School District board of trustees voted 3-2 on Sept. 10 to move all district graduations to The Grounds event center at the Placer County Fairgrounds.