Statesboro High School can’t turn back the calendar for those parents and guests locked out of Hanner Fieldhouse during the May 30 graduation service, but is offering them a special replay ceremony with help from Georgia Southern University.
The service will be held June 27, at 10 a.m. in the Statesboro High School Auditorium. Principal Ken LeCain and Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson mailed a letter to parents of all graduates earlier this week.
Speaking during Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, Wilson called the lockout “a very unfortunate situation” and “a tragedy.” GSU officials were very upset about it as well, he said, adding that he appreciated their response.
“We really wanted to give those parents the opportunity to have that experience with their students,” Wilson said.
Officials aren’t rounding up all of the more than 340 graduates and having them graduate again, of course. The ceremony is intended as a private one for families who were not able to see their graduates march and receive their diplomas, said Hayley Greene, the school system’s public relations and marketing specialist.
All of the graduates received their diplomas, so the service will be a re-enactment.
But musician and composer Dr. Michael Braz has volunteered to play “Pomp and Circumstance,” as well as the school’s alma mater and a recessional, Greene said. The university is paying for a reception and a photographer.
The letter invited parents whose families were adversely affected by the lockout. They are asked to contact Kathy Hendrix at Statesboro High at (912) 212-8860 or firstname.lastname@example.org by June 22 if their son or daughter wishes to participate. As of Thursday, school officials had learned of four graduates’ families who were affected.
Officials estimated that, at first, about 80 guests were barred entry to the May 30 service at Hanner Fieldhouse, Georgia Southern’s basketball venue. This began about 10 minutes before the 3:30 p.m. ceremony, Wilson said.
Citing safety, university employees stopped letting people in, but then reopened the doors when school staff members asked and allowed about 40 more ticket holders to be seated in chairs behind the graduates.
A contributing factor was that the south-end stands, usually available for overflow seating, were blocked by a large video screen from a previous event. The graduating class was also Statesboro High’s biggest yet.
“Due to public safety concerns, some guests were prohibited from entering the building in enough time to witness the complete ceremony,” the letter explained.
“Georgia Southern University, the Bulloch County Board of Education and Statesboro High School deeply regret the disappointment and inconvenience this caused some families,” it continued. “We know that it was very disheartening, and we hope that you will accept our sincere apologies.”
The university issued an apology last week and promised to refund the money that the Bulloch County Schools paid for Statesboro High’s use of the gym.
The school system was contracted to pay $11,842 for the three high school graduations, including $6,770 for Statesboro High’s ceremony with space reserved for a maximum of 3,500 people.
The refund is not being used for the redo ceremony, Greene said. She said she will cover any miscellaneous costs from her budget.
A video of the original graduation ceremony is available on the school website, http://shs.bulloch.k12.ga.us, as was also noted in the letter.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.