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Archive for Thursday, September 23, 1999

GRADUATIONS COULD CHANGE VENUE

September 23, 1999

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Don't send out Free State High and Lawrence High graduation announcements yet. The venue could wind up being Memorial Stadium instead of the Lied Center.

Key votes favoring a proposal Wednesday to shift Lawrence high school graduation to traditional stomping grounds at Memorial Stadium came from two people central to the debate.

Free State High student Katy Belot and Lawrence High student Chris Williams said their peers were profoundly opposed to the Lawrence district's plan to hold graduation at the 2,020-seat Lied Center and limit each student to a maximum of five tickets for guests.

"Everybody is very disappointed in this decision," Belot said.

About 475 high school students signed petitions expressing that sentiment.

"Our class feels strongly about having everyone come to graduation," Williams said.

A crowd of 175 perturbed parents and educators stood by those students Wednesday during a meeting at LHS. They overwhelmingly supported a suggestion from John Lungstrum to shift the two graduation programs from the Lied Center to the outdoor football stadium.

Lungstrum said KU officials assured him the district could have access to Memorial Stadium for exercises in 2000 and beyond.

"KU is perfectly willing to work with us," said Lungstrum, a Free State parent and U.S. district judge.

Lawrence school board member Scott Morgan promised to ask the full board Monday to reconsider the decision to hold ceremonies at KU's Lied Center.

Lungstrum said the stadium -- used off and on for LHS graduation for 35 years -- was preferable because it had unlimited seating.

Under a plan developed by a Lawrence school district committee and embraced by the central administration, separate graduation ceremonies were scheduled for May 28 at the 2,020-seat Lied Center.

A limit of five tickets for each graduate would create problems because both high schools typically attract 3,000 guests.

High school programs were conducted the past two years at 16,300-seat Allen Fieldhouse while the stadium was undergoing renovation.

KU officials rejected the district's request to use the fieldhouse again in 2000. Reasons included potential for injury to fieldhouse guests in bad weather, poor acoustics, lack of air conditioning and unwillingness to take the building out of service for an entire week.

The consensus at Wednesday's meeting was that the fieldhouse could serve as a backup in case of rain.

The district's committee that reviewed alternatives to Allen Fieldhouse included students, parents, school administrators and central office personnel. Co-chairs were Mike Browning and Lisa Boyd, both high school assistant principals.

With the fieldhouse off limits, the committee settled on the Lied Center because it had a quality sound system, air conditioning, plenty of parking and convenient access for people with disabilities. Potential for rainouts led the committee to spurn outdoor locations.

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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