Why are graduations in the middle of the week?

Apparently there has been some amount of grumbling among parents and others about the fact that the Lawrence school district is holding high schol graduation ceremonies in the middle of the week this year.

For some people, that may cause problems, especially for parents who typically work evening shifts, and those who want to invite all the aunts and uncles and grandparents to travel from out of town so they can take part in a family celebration.

Double that for families that have students in both Lawrence and Free State high schools,

But the decision to hold this year’s ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday – as opposed to back-to-back ceremonies on either a Saturday or Sunday – was actually made more than a year ago. And school district officials say it came in response to a multitude of other problems that arose from all the other alternatives.

It seems to be another case that shows how negotiating school district calendars is sometimes only slightly less complicated than negotiating peace in the Middle East.

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 on their own “home turf,” so to speak. That pretty much requires holding them on separate days.

The Lawrence school board actually made the decision about this year’s dates more than a year ago, at its April 9, 2012, meeting, after hearing a report from Free State principal Ed West and Lawrence High principal Matt Brungardt.

The decision was reported in the Journal-World the following day.

“The high schools have been challenged in the past to schedule a date for graduation that avoids conflicts with Kansas University,” the principals said in a memo to the board. “The school administrators also feel strongly that graduation should closely follow the last day of classes for seniors.”

So the two schools formed a committee to explore all the options and make a recommendation to the school board. Basically, it boiled down to this:

The last day for seniors was Thursday, May 16. KU’s graduation was set for the following Sunday, May 19, with Monday the 20th reserved as a back-up date.

That left Tuesday and Wednesday, the 21st and 22nd, as the next available days.

It’s still not certain, however, whether the 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 precedence (sic) for future years was being set,” the memo said. “If the events go well next year and weekday graduations continue, both principals feel a consistent and permanent plan would be best.”

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