Don’t even bother checking the weather forecast this year. Graduation at Riverside-Brookfield High School will be held indoors in the gym on May 26, and outdoor graduations may well be a thing of the past.
Traditionally, RBHS has held its graduations outdoors in the football stadium, except when it rains.
But with construction of a new parking lot and new tennis courts going on behind the football stadium, it just made sense to hold graduation indoors this this year, District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said.
“We have an open construction site there now with a lot of dust and debris, so not knowing what the weather will be like that day could create some unfair conditions for the event,” Skinkis said.
But unpredictable weather may not be what dooms outdoor graduation ceremonies in the future. Rather it may be the football field itself.
While planning last year’s graduation — which to be moved indoors at the last minute because of the threat of rain — RBHS officials became aware of complications due to the new turf field.
Traditionally the graduates sit on folding chairs placed on the football field looking at the audience seated in the bleachers.
But Skinkis said that the legs of folding chairs, as well as high heeled shoes, can damage the artificial turf field.
“It’s something about the long stiletto heels and the folding chair legs,” Skinkis said. “We had to tell kids last year, no high heels, they puncture the turf.”
If graduation was held in the football stadium, the seating arrangement for the graduates would have to be changed.
“The set up would be much different and I don’t think people would be as happy,” Skinkis said. “The kids would have to be seated on the track so their backs would have to be to the audience so the only time the parents would really get a chance to see their kid would be when they go across the stage.
“We were going to lay down sheets of plywood and set the temporary stage up next to the track so it would be very different than from what had occurred in the past.”
Skinkis said holding graduation in the newly renovated RBHS gym has many advantages, because the new bleachers have hand rails and there is now handicapped-accessible seating.
“We have plenty of seats inside,” Skinkis said. “It’s climate controlled … it just makes for an easier set up.”
Knowing that graduation will be held inside and not having to worry about a last-minute change of location because of weather also makes it easier for RBTV, which broadcasts graduation live, said school officials.
“Whenever we do it outside we always have to have a Plan B set up, so we would have extra chairs and things rented,” Skinkis said. “By kind of eliminating the weather factor, it just makes things run a lot smoother. It makes for an easier event.”
Families of graduates this year are allotted six tickets: four for the gym and two more for overflow seating in the auditorium and the Little Theater where the event will be shown live on RBTV.
A few months ago Skinkis discussed with the school board the idea of permanently moving graduation indoors and perhaps even moving graduation to an off-campus location.
“The previous board had encouraged me to keep it inside going forward, just because it eliminates the weather factor and some of the other issues,” Skinkis said. “I’ll have to discuss that with the new board.”
Skinkis said he contacted venues such as Triton College and the Rosemont Theater but costs were high.
So, if the newly constituted school board agrees, it seems likely that graduation at RBHS will be held in the gym for the foreseeable future.