Gloomy weather threatens Friday graduation


The Weather Channel

Potential thunderstorms threaten the location of the Class of 2016’s graduation on Friday. The ceremony can still be held in the stadium with mild rain; however, thunder and lightning may push the festivities indoors.

Yuri-Grace Ohashi, News co-Editor

For 18 years running, the Mill has always planned for and held an outdoor graduation in Panther Stadium. The Class of 2016’s luck, however, may have run dry.  An ominous weather forecast already has Principal Allen Leonard and the Starr’s Mill staff making contingency plans.

All week, families and faculty members alike have been keeping an eye on the Weather Channel as the possibility for thunderstorms looms overhead. Not only would the weather put a damper on everyone’s mood, but it could be a game-changer for the whole graduation ceremony itself.

“We generally have 4,000 to 4,500 people attend graduation,” Leonard said, explaining the school’s dilemma to its anxious graduates. “The stadium has the capacity for that many people; however, moving graduation inside could pose a problem.”

‘The fire marshal made it very clear that we could not exceed our maximum capacity’.”

— Principal Allen Leonard

Leonard went on to explain how the administration had two alternatives — either hold graduation inside or delay it until Saturday morning. “After discussing our possibilities with several people, from students to parents to families and teachers, it seems like a Saturday graduation would be one of the worst choices possible,” he said, “and we still don’t know what the weather may be like. I don’t know about you, but I much rather have a rainy Friday graduation than a rainy Saturday graduation.”

One issue with an inside graduation is the Mill’s gymnasium seating capacity. “The fire marshal made it very clear that we could not exceed our maximum capacity,” Leonard said at graduation practice. “The gym only holds 1,800 as opposed to the 4,500 that usually attend graduation, and keep in mind that the 1,800 includes fitting all of you guys who are graduating in.”

In the event that the worst-case scenario happens, each senior received four “rain tickets” for friends and family to attend an inside graduation. Leonard also spoke ahead of time with videographers and technology coordinators, setting up a livestream of the ceremony due to the limited seating. “We’ll also open up as many classrooms as possible in addition to the auditorium so that your friends and family can watch the graduation on campus in real-time,” he said.

‘I haven’t figured out how to control the weather just yet, but I’m working on that so we always have sunny graduation days in the future’.”

— Principal Allen Leonard

Seniors and Junior Marshals held graduation practice in the gym on Wednesday morning and out on the field this morning as usual. While the stage and chairs are already lined up in the stadium, ready for graduation, plans may change at the last moment. “We hope to do things outside, but there’s no point in setting everything up if we have to bring it all back in,” foreign language department chair and graduation coordinator Brandi Meeks said. Meeks works alongside math teacher Julie Spencer and counselor Paula O’Shields to make sure graduation runs smoothly.

Due to these weather-related contingencies, these three have had to adjust their plans, putting certain tasks off until official announcements of the ceremony’s location are made. The final decision for graduation will go out by 1 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. Until then, the graduation coordinators and Junior Marshals have to wait before putting up parking signs and final preparations for graduation.

“We’re finding ourselves in a very unique and unusual situation this year,” Leonard said. “I haven’t figured out how to control the weather just yet, but I’m working on that so we always have sunny graduation days in the future.”