Class of 2007 may be first to walk down a new aisle

Change of venue for graduation could save money


Staff Writer

ALLENTOWN – This year’s Allentown High School graduates may have a different venue for their commencement ceremony.

At the Jan. 3 Upper Freehold Regional Board of Education workshop meeting, Allentown High School Principal Christopher Nagy said that a subcommittee has looked at relocating the graduation ceremony. He said that AHS is one of the few schools in the area to still hold the event on campus and added that holding the ceremony elsewhere could save thousands of dollars.

Nagy said the subcommittee investigated using several possible off-site locations for graduation. Some, such as the War Memorial in Trenton, did not have sufficient seating, while others, such as the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, were considered too far away.

Nagy said the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton has 7,300 seats and a parking lot that could accommodate 3,500 vehicles. The cost to use the arena would amount to $7,500, he said, plus a $500 graduation practice charge that may be waived.

The College of New Jersey Recreation Center in Ewing has 3,200 seats and would cost $5,000, plus a chair rental fee of $1.30 each, for a total of $7,600, according to Nagy.

Last year, the cost to hold the commencement on campus was $10,023, according to Nagy. The cost included chair rental for $3,963, stage rental for $680, sound-system rental for $480, police coverage for $800, a closed-circuit television rental for $300 and staff commencement security for $800. In addition, the ceremony cost the school district’s buildings and grounds department $3,000 for the setup and breakdown of chairs, campus cleanup, parking setup, auditorium setup in case of rain and overtime.

The total cost for last year’s commencement exercises amounted to $12,985.45, according to Nagy, because there are also fixed costs totaling $2,962 for flowers, programs, diplomas, and administrator caps and gowns that would be necessary wherever the ceremony is held, he said.

According to Nagy, the class of 2006 had 240 graduates, and the class of 2007 is expected to have 272. He said the school does not have enough bleachers to accommodate this year’s graduates so if the commencement takes place on campus, another set of bleachers must be purchased at a cost of between $5,000 and 6,000, he said.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Robert Smith said that having the ceremony on campus is a great opportunity in good weather, but that when it rains, there is a severe restriction of the number of people who can attend the ceremony in the auditorium.

Nagy said the inside of the school must always be prepared to host graduation in the event of rain. He said only two family members per student can fit into the auditorium, which is used for the ceremony in bad weather.

“Everyone else is in the gym, watching on closed-circuit TV,” he said.

Board member Jeanette Bressi noted that three of the past five graduations were ruined by rain and said that the community had asked the board to look into a change of venue.

Nagy said graduation would take place on June 20, but that the date may have to change due to availability if the board chooses an off-campus location for the ceremony.

Smith said he would like the board to act on the matter at the Jan. 17 meeting, as dates at local venues will continue to be reserved. Smith called the possibility of changing the venue a difficult decision, as it is “a departure from tradition.”

Board President Joseph Stampe asked if Nagy had a sense of how students felt about the matter. Nagy said some would not be surprised about a possible change of venue, adding that it could also be very hot on graduation day and it would be nice to have air-conditioning.

“I don’t anticipate it will be a problem with students,” Nagy said. “In other years, students have been open to [the idea].”

Nagy said the issue of changing the venue is related to maintaining the dignity of the program.

“For a couple of years, the seniors couldn’t sing their senior song,” he said. “We had to cut pieces out of the ceremony due to clouds coming in.”