The Westhampton Beach Board of Education decided on Tuesday to reverse a decision to change the time and date of this year’s high school commencement ceremony after more than two dozen parents and students voiced their opposition to the move during Monday night’s board meeting.
“After considering that input and the totality of the circumstances surrounding the change, the decision has been made to return the graduation ceremony to the originally scheduled date and time, which is Sunday, June 24, at 1 p.m.,” Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Michael Radday said on Wednesday morning.
Students and parents were informed of the change back to the original plan on Tuesday. Last week, the district announced that it would be changing the date and time of the graduation ceremony to Friday, June 22, at 5:30 p.m. Board of Education President James Hulme said the board did not vote on a formal resolution, explaining that it was considered an administrative change to the district calendar.
But after announcing the first switch, Westhampton Beach High School Principal Chris Herr, Mr. Radday and Board of Education members were contacted by a number of parents and students who told them they would be adversely impacted by the changes. Traditionally, commencement is held on the last Sunday in June and begins at 1 p.m. This year’s ceremony was changed to a Friday evening after a group of students approached the board in early January and pleaded with members to change the ceremony’s time.
At that time, Ashley Arcuri, the senior class president, presented the board with a petition signed by 150 people supporting the time change. The students told the board that the midday heat presented a health risk to those attending the ceremony. At last year’s commencement, volunteers of the Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance were called to assist an elderly woman.
Moving graduation back two days would have put the senior prom and commencement within 24 hours of each other, presenting another challenge. This year’s prom is set for Thursday, June 21, at 8 p.m., at East Wind in Riverhead. Some local districts, such as the Islip School District, purposely schedule the events one right after the other to ensure that students act responsibly on prom night.
“The date and time of the prom was not a significant factor in the decisions about graduation,” Mr. Radday said.
Claire Bean, one of the first parents to address the board on Monday, helped spread the word of the graduation changes on Facebook. She said there is an obvious disconnect between the board and the parents of high school seniors.
“I want a reasonable resolution and this is still unacceptable,” Ms. Bean said at the time.
High school senior Zachary Laube, who has family flying in to see him graduate, said the changes would have inconvenienced his family. He also told the board that although he saw that a survey was being circulated at school over the past few months regarding the suggested dates of graduation and prom, he does not think that the opinions of the “minority” should impact the “majority.”
“My grandparents are coming from California and my friend’s grandparents are coming from India ... I don’t think people were informed enough,” Zachary said.
While a decision was not made on Monday night, Mr. Hulme told the group that board members would take their concerns into consideration.
“This decision was not made in secret, it was not random, but, rather, was evaluated like all situations that come before the board,” Mr. Hulme told the parents. “I understand that some people are disappointed, and if we were to change course tonight there would be another room full of people here who are disappointed about the fact that we changed it back.”
Ms. Bean said on Wednesday that she and other parents are happy that the board agreed to go back to the original plan, as noted on the district calendar.
“We were grateful to have had the opportunity to express our concerns and thoroughly support follow-up discussions regarding the time of future graduation ceremonies,” she said.