By Rick Palsgrove
Throughout the history of Groveport Madison Schools, graduation ceremonies each June were held at the high school either in the gym or on the football field
Then, in the early 21st century, graduation was moved off site indoors to Veterans Memorial and the Celeste Center to avoid potential bad weather and to accommodate the large crowd the ceremony draws.
The 2019 graduation hearkened back to old traditions by being held at Cruiser Stadium, but district officials are now considering moving the ceremony off site once again.
“There are always weather concerns holding the ceremony outdoors,” said Groveport Madison Superintendent Garilee Ogden.
She added that the large crowd attending graduation in 2019 resulted in parking problems at the high school and traffic backing up on South Hamilton Road.
“Our 565 parking spaces are not enough to handle it,” said Ogden. “Cruiser Stadium can hold 4,000 people and our gym can hold 1,500, so holding it in the gym is not feasible in bad weather.”
Ogden said it takes two days to set up the stage and technology in Cruiser Stadium for graduation. She said the district has to pay for security to protect the stage and technology for those two day,s plus there are costs for overtime pay for the technical staff.
“Then, if it rains during set up, we have to take it all down and move it inside,” said Ogden.
Ogden recommended to the Groveport Madison Board of Education that the 2020 graduation ceremony be moved indoors to World Harvest Church, located on Gender Road in Canal Winchester.
“There would be no weather problems, it seats 6,400, it has high quality audio-visual that their staff operates, there’s abundant free parking, and it is located near our district,” said Ogden, who added that Canal Winchester High School and both Pickerington high schools use the World Harvest venue for their graduations. “We’re trying to find a place close by and convenient to accommodate everyone.”
She said it would cost the district $10,000 to rent the World Harvest Church facility.
“It seems reasonable to take graduation somewhere inside,” said board member Nancy Gillespie. “There are problems with holding it at Cruiser Stadium. It can be hot. It could rain. There’s traffic issues and some people ended up watching the ceremony from behind a fence because there’s not enough room for them.”
Board President Bryan Shoemaker questioned using the religious facility for graduation because he said some people may be philosophically opposed to it. He also questioned the cost compared to the rental fee at the Celeste Center in Columbus.
Ogden said neither Canal Winchester nor Pickerington indicated they had any religious philosophical conflicts about holding their ceremonies at World Harvest.
“Because graduation’s not a religious event,” said Ogden.
Groveport Madison Treasurer John Walsh said it costs around $4,000 to $5,000 plus additional charges for amenities to rent the Celeste Center. Plus there is a $5 parking fee at the Celeste Center.
Board member Chris Snyder said people were excited to have graduation back at the high school and questioned how moving it away again would affect people.
“The Celeste Center is such a drive for people,” said board member Libby Gray. “It’s hard for parents to get there. The issue is the stress it puts on people.”
Shoemaker noted the district invested in a stage, equipment, and chairs to be used for graduation on site at the high school. Ogden said these items can still be used for other events at the school.
The board will vote on where to hold the 2020 graduation ceremony at its Sept. 11 meeting at 7 p.m. at the district offices located at 4400 Marketing Place, Suite B, Groveport.