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August 2019
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Graduation always hot, but few options for change

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Blake Moss / Photo

CON-GRAD-ULATIONS - Pickens High senior Zach Goss and Athletic Director Chris Parker celebrate during last Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

 

Reports indicate that first responders treated eight people at the Pickens High graduation Saturday morning, transporting two to the hospital.

Of these, six were due to heat, one was a seizure, and one was a child with a stomach issue.

Fire and EMS Director Sloan Elrod said it wasn’t that hot this year compared to other days last week and previous graduations, but “the air in the stadium just wasn’t moving.”

While it may seem like eight people requiring emergency medical help during a high school graduation is unusual, Elrod said it was actually a light year. Last year six people were transported from the high school to the hospital for heat

issues and Elrod said a few years back he recalled that eight people were transported as their record high, but that year included a fluke with three people turning ankles getting off shuttle buses.

School Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson said they are always looking for options to better handle graduation but few present themselves for such a large event. 

“The two things in Pickens County where you have no options on where to have them are Friday night football games and high school graduation. There is just not any place that can handle 4,000 people.”

Wilson gave the estimate of 4,000 on hand for Saturday’s graduation, a crowd larger than the football games based on his view from the field looking back at the crowd.

For the class of 2020, however, the ceremony will grow larger and longer as the biggest class to ever graduate from Pickens High School is expected to roll through. This year there were 280 graduates, next year they are expecting 320-330.

Wilson said there will be additional problems next year with parking as this year the softball field and tennis court areas (under renovation) were used as parking, but they will not be available next year.

Wilson said they are open to changes but none pop out immediately as a better alternative than Saturday morning at the stadium. And he noted, that there are people who hold tight to tradition with graduation so changes aren’t easy.

Among a few options that have been considered:

  • A Friday or Saturday night ceremony, but Wilson said there are several concerns he has with this including the likelihood of evening thunderstorms, the difficulty arriving from Atlanta in time for a Friday evening ceremony, and the greater opportunity for student parties before and after graduation. “Chances are if something [bad] is going to happen it’s going to happen at an evening party,” he said.

• Wilson said they could do some type of split ceremonies where some students come to one and others to another, but the superintendent recognizes this may not sit well with friends who want to watch both. He said there is no advantage to this if most people come to both. Smaller dual services could be moved inside.

• An indoor graduation for all with limited tickets. The gym at PHS could hold 1,600 so they would have to restrict tickets, with each student given a designated number.

Two features the schools has had for several years which could make a lot of difference if used, the shuttle services and the video stream into the performing arts center. If more people used shuttles from the offsite parking it would greatly help get people in and out. Now some people start arriving more than two hours early out of parking concerns and others are left with long treks on Dragon Drive.

Secondly, the schools’ video stream to the air-conditioned performing arts center (PAC) is barely used. 

“Next year, I really want to encourage people with older/frail family members to use the PAC,” he said. “With our video projection, you can see your graduate better and be comfortable,” he said.