The debate about where the class of 2012 will graduate ended Tuesday night when the Newton County Board of Education was told the decision had been made to hold graduations at Sharp Stadium.
Although the school system had been using Church in the Now as the site for the graduations for years, they were unable to secure the church this year because it is bank owned. Several parents had also expressed displeasure at having Newton graduations in Rockdale County where the church is located.
However, holding graduation at Sharp brings with it another set of concerns, namely what to do in case of inclement weather.
Samantha Fuhrey, executive director of secondary education, explained to board members that they would have to factor in a 60-minute rain delay to prepare for that. If there is a light rain they will continue on with graduation. If there is lightning or heavy rain the plan is to delay graduation for 60 minutes, during which time officials will check to see if it looks like the weather will improve or graduation needs to be canceled for the day.
Everyone will be kept abreast of the schedule via school messenger, the school system website, Facebook and Twitter.
Graduation dates are currently set as follows: Eastside High School at 7 p.m., Friday, May 25; Alcovy High School at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 26 and at 7 p.m. the same day for Newton High School.
Should it rain, graduations will be held Sunday, May 27, at 9 a.m. for EHS, 2 p.m. for AHS and 7 p.m. for NHS. If rained out that day graduations will be held at the same times n May 28.
"There are at least six opportunities to get our kids through the ceremony," said Fuhrey.
District 4 board member Almond Turner expressed concerns about holding the ceremony during a light rain, saying that attendees could easily get "saturated as a result of that." He was also concerned that a heavy rain, even if it occurred an hour prior to graduation, could cause the field to be wet and muddy.
"I have some concerns... If it is raining that day we just do an alternate day," he said.
Superintendent Gary Mathews said he had been at school systems where graduations were held outside and said "let's pray it doesn't rain."
Sound for graduation ceremonies will be brought in by a professional company according to Fuhrey. Graduates will use Ficquett Theme School's gymnasium area as a staging area for graduates, who will walk down the back walkway of the theme school, through the field houses at the stadium and onto the field to their seats.
Sharp has seating for 4,100 people (3,000 on the home side, 1,100 on the visitor side). The home side is not as handicapped accessible, although seating will be available in the walkway in front of the seats on the home side. The visitor's side has wheelchair ramps.
In other news, the board also discussed three principals have announced their plans for retirement this year.
Mansfield Elementary School Principal G.W. Davis, Newton County Theme School at Ficquett Principal Ruth Anne Smith and Eastside High School Principal Dennis Roddenberry have all announced their plans to retire at the end of this school year.
"A big thank you is in order for three NCSS professionals who have given of themselves, time and talent, to the education of Newton County youth over the years," said Mathews. "Each is retiring at the end of this school year and each has our well wishes and thanks, once again, for their many contributions to education in our county and to the many students, parents, staff and community members they have served ... Best always to Dennis, RuthAnne, and G.W. and their respective families.
"As we go about the important task of selecting new principals for these schools, we will follow our written administrative guidelines for screening and interviewing. In both cases, screening and interviewing, a committee conducts the process."
The screening process involves the superintendent, deputy superintendent, executive director of elementary or secondary education and a human resources representative.