Earlier this month, a group of concerned parents rallied against plans to have the Eaton Community Schools’ class of 2014 graduation ceremony in the school gymnasium rather than the traditional football stadium setting.
Jeannie French spoke first, and told school board member she was supporting the class of 2014 and future graduates, including her own son.
Making the decision that the gymnasium was the best place was absurd, according to French, as it forces the students to choose who could attend their graduation ceremony.
“All parents should have been made aware of the decision,” French said.
Reasoning which has been given for not having the ceremony included protection of the artificial turf.
French listed many activities, practices, ceremonies, etc. where people have already been out on the turf without having the types of shoes they are wearing being checked.
“How can we have all this activity on the turf and not have any damage, but not have a 2-3 hour annual ceremony?” French asked.
The ceremony has been held on the football field for the past 37 years. To French, this is a tradition that should be considered.
Board member Joe Renner told those in attendance. the event was discussed repeatedly at several meetings the past several months.
Samantha Chrismer, senior class president for the class of 2014, reported that a majority of the seniors would want to have their ceremony at the stadium, and hoped to be the first class to graduate on that field. She asked board members to reconsider. She presented a petition students had signed for the board.
Parents asked for a committee to be formed to allow parents to come up with a solution to the issue.
Diane Alexander said if the football was absolutely not an option, perhaps the district should look at some larger off-site location options as other school districts in the area have turned to, allowing for more seating, and places where they would not be dependent on the weather.
Board member Terry Parks said this is another one of those situations where you are “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
The previous board of education didn’t have a second thought about having graduation at the new stadium.
But once the company advised of the damages that could be done to the turf, the discussion to have the graduation at the new stadium ended.
So, due to safety issues, the possibility of damaging turf, etc., the board turned to other options. Those options included the gymnasium, and the Tiernan Center in Richmond, Indiana, according to Parks. The Tiernan Center was taken out of the option, as Richmond Schools is having its graduation there on June 8. The board made the decision to have the ceremony in the gymnasium in January.
In an email obtained via public records request, Pat Oakes of ProGrass Turf told Superintendent Barb Curry in November the district could “place the chairs with the rubber bottoms directly on the turf field. This will not damage the turf, but once you remove the chairs you will notice divots where the chairs have been placed. Once the field is completely cleaned up, groom the entire field and this will level out the infill and remove the divots,” and provided other direction on how to safely use the field during such a ceremony, including: ” if you plan to build a stage on the turf please place 3/4” plywood under the supports legs of the stage. This will help spread the weight of the stage across the plywood instead of just on the post itself. Please make sure that females do not wear stilettos heels on the field. They will have a very difficult time walking on the rubber infill and this will become a safety issue. Do not use any sharp objects directly on the turf. If you feel the object being placed on the turf could tear the fibers it would be best no to use that object.”
Board members agreed to revisit the decision with any options that parents can bring to the administration.
In other business:
*Board members heard from a district resident and parent, Mike Halderman, concerned with the school system’s plans for security measures. Halderman said he feels armed personnel are needed in the school buildings. Officials advised that a community forum could be arranged by the community members, separate from the school system, and told Halderman to speak with Curry to make arrangements.