MANKATO — A couple of years ago, on a cloudy and ominous June day, West High School Principal Brian Gersich was sweating the weather pretty bad.
This was the big day 275 or so high school students had been working toward for 12 years — graduation. The big one. The threshold to adulthood. A major rite of passage. And many of them had family who had driven from out of town to attend the ceremony.
Trouble is, West and East graduation ceremonies are planned each year to be held outside. When the weather cooperates, it’s a kind of “more is merrier” approach to packing the stands with friends and family. But when the weather causes a last-minute switch to an indoor affair, seating becomes limited and principals have to tell students they can only bring so many people.
“Basically we got to the point where we had to make the call,” Gersich said. “(The storm) was going to hit right in the middle of our ceremony. We had to go inside.”
That’s why many folks in the district are happy to announce that these tough decisions won’t have to be made anymore. Both West and East graduations will be held June 6 at Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State University.
“The No. 1 thing that drove this was having space for (students’) families,” said Supt. Sheri Allen.
The decision to move to Taylor has been more than a year in the making. Surveys went out to families asking for feedback on moving the ceremonies, and the responses were largely in favor of it.
Allen said with district enrollment making steady gains year after year, the problem with capacity issues at indoor graduation ceremonies were only going to become more exaggerated. Parking also has been and would continue to be an issue.
Now, Gersich said, the students can invite whomever they like.
“Whoever wants to join us can join us,” he said.
Two separate ceremonies will be held for East and West. East graduation will be held at 5:30 p.m. and West’s at 8 p.m. The ceremonies will be personalized for each school, including stage decor and special effects.
The annual senior parties still will be held at the respective high schools. The move also means less stress on the party planning committees, which used to have to tear down the parties in the high schools to accommodate the graduation ceremonies having to move indoors due to inclement weather.