Parents and relatives of graduating seniors are giving mixed reviews to the Lawrence school district's decision to hold commencement ceremonies on back-to-back weekdays instead of on a Saturday or Sunday as it has done in the past.
Staci Ahlvers, whose son Grant Taylor-Ahlvers graduated from Free State High School on Wednesday night, said it proved inconvenient for her family.
“A lot of family couldn't come who would have liked to have been here from out of town because it was in the middle of the week,” she said.
But Tom McMahon, whose son Lee also graduated from Free State, said it worked out fine for him.
“I just took a day's vacation,” he said. “It's a special day, so it was not a problem.”
The change in schedule might have caught some families by surprise because the decision to hold this year's ceremonies on weekdays was actually made more than a year ago, at the Lawrence school board's April 9, 2012, meeting.
At that meeting, which was reported in the Journal-World the following day, Free State Principal Ed West and Lawrence High Principal Matt Brungardt reported that it had long been a challenge to coordinate the two high school ceremonies around Kansas University's graduation.
"The school administrators also feel strongly that graduation should closely follow the last day of classes for seniors," the principals wrote in a memo to the board at the time.
In years past, the schools used to have back-to-back ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. But that changed a few years ago when the high schools got their own football stadiums. Since then, they've held separate graduations at their own stadiums.
This year, the last day for seniors was Thursday, May 16. KU had scheduled its graduation the following Sunday, May 19, and reserved Monday the 20th as a backup date in case of rain on Sunday.
That meant the next available days were Tuesday and Wednesday, the 21st and 22nd.
It's still not certain, however, whether the Lawrence district will follow the same pattern in future years.
"The committee operated under the presumption that the dates were being recommended for next year (2013) only and no (precedent) for future years was being set," the memo from West and Brungardt said. "If the events go well next year and weekday graduations continue, both principals feel a consistent and permanent plan would be best."
Kim Johnson, whose son Jackson Lockwood graduated from Free State on Wednesday, said it worked out for their family because her husband teaches at Washburn University in Topeka, which held its graduation on May 11.
“It really allowed us to separate it up. I truly appreciated it,” Johnson said.