The Ottumwa Courier

February 18, 2014

Graduate when?

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — It's just something to think about: Do we want to hold high school graduation on Fridays?

Though students have talked about the idea in the past, this year, the idea was brought to the district by Ottumwa High School Principal Mark Hanson.

"I know at our church, like at many churches, we like to honor our graduates on Sunday, yet the kids are not there at church because they're getting ready for the ceremony," said Hanson.

Though it was not an official agenda item, while speaking to the school board last week, he suggested other benefits of a Friday graduation. But of course, he said, he was aware of the downside: That relatives at a distance would have a limited opportunity to attend. But with a year's notice, that problem could be overcome in many cases.

The good points might outweigh the bad enough to give it a shot, he said.

"I've always felt like an evening event is more dignified. There's a different mindset that people have. It's a little more solemn."

Isn't graduation about fun?

"It is a celebratory time," acknowledged Hanson, "but it's also a time to reflect upon the accomplishments of and to honor our graduates in a dignified way."

Toward that end, the school has made some additions to the ceremony, like music and a presentation by a faculty speaker. In fact, having teachers at the ceremony would be another benefit of a Friday graduation.

"Our teachers are human, and like anybody else on a holiday weekend, their families have plans," Hanson said. "A lot more of our staff members would be able to come, and I feel that would mean a lot to our kids. Also, when we rehearse on Friday afternoon, as we do, the protocol is fresh on their minds for Friday evening. And I'm assuming renting the facility for one day [Friday] is less expensive than renting it for three days."

So what have seniors said? A poll of students showed that 60 percent would support a Friday evening ceremony.

There are communities where graduation is on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, the principal agreed. Some districts change which day it will be on an annual basis. Yet this issue is certainly not Hanson's priority, he said, just something that could be an improvement that should be worth considering.

"Try it for a year, and if the community doesn't like it, we can go back to Sunday," the principal said.

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark