DICKINSON — The Dickinson school district didn’t reschedule its storm-delayed graduation ceremonies Thursday to another day because of the logistic difficulty of reassembling all the staff and volunteers needed to conduct the ceremony, school officials said Friday.
A fast-moving storm with lightning forced a more than two-hour delay of commencement ceremonies at Sam Vitanza Stadium.
“Coordinating a district event with a crowd of 6,000 guests is a large undertaking,” district spokeswoman Tammy Dowdy said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“To manage traffic control, open the stadium, control lights and sound, run the scoreboard, clean restrooms, run the golf carts to help with elderly and handicapped guests, etc., takes many people.
“Between police officers, maintenance and operations staff, transportation staff members, high school teachers, counselors and administrators, there are approximately 100 volunteers involved in the running of the event.
“When consulted, many of these people said that they were unable to work on Friday night. This would have created a safety issue for guests and students and negatively impacted the quality of graduation.”
While the 550 graduates waited in the high school gym, school district officials moved everyone out of the stadium stands for fear of potential lightning strikes. Family and friends waited in the parking lot.
“At first (the graduates) were pretty upset we had to sit in the gym for two more hours,” 2013 graduate Mary Williams said. “Finally we realized we could spend a few more hours together, and we all took it pretty well. Maybe better than our parents did.”
As the family and friends waited outside, the graduates got to hear the speeches from their high school Principal Billye Smith, salutatorian Madison Gove and valedictorian Faith Weeks. It didn’t matter that the speeches were done in the gym, Williams said.
“I was so inspired even without my parents around to hear (the speeches),” Williams said. “It still had the same effect as if it had been in the stadium.”
When the weather cleared, the students headed back to the stadium to receive their diplomas.
But not all families and friends stuck around for that part.
“Had (the district) communicated better, maybe we would have all stayed,” Ridawna Sneed, whose daughter DaDriana Allen was to graduate Thursday, said. “We didn’t know what was going on, and I couldn’t get a hold of my daughter on her cell.”
Sneed said Allen’s stepfather, grandparents and aunt and uncle left as Sneed stayed in her car in the parking lot. She told her daughter that because the stands were wet, she didn’t want go back into the stadium and risk slipping and falling.
When she found out her grandparents were gone, Allen, who finished her course work in February through the high school’s continuation center, left before the graduates received their diplomas.
Williams said that her parents, Les and Lisa Williams, stuck around.
“They weren’t going to miss my graduation for anything,” she said.
Her aunt and uncle, Cheri and Ed Williams, who flew in from Washington state, also stuck it out.
Williams said many of the graduates didn’t want to delay the ceremony a day because many had plans to go out of town. She said most of the students understood that no one could predict the severe weather would cause such a hassle.
“Maybe we could have been more patient and waited,” Sneed said. “But the school (district) wasn’t communicating with us what was happening. If we had known what the plan was, everyone would not have left.”
Sneed said she’s over her daughter missing out on her graduation, but the graduate isn’t.
“She’s really upset,” Sneed said. “I told her that no matter how much you plan, things happen that you can’t plan for.”