Some seniors at Duanesburg Junior/Senior High School are annoyed with the school district’s decision to move graduation up one week in order to accommodate a capital project on school grounds.
A letter sent to parents dated Dec. 19 informed students that this year's graduation will be held on Saturday, June 17, at 10 a.m., instead of Friday, June 23, when it was originally scheduled. The school said in its letter that the decision was made in order to gain an additional week of summer construction work at the junior/senior high school.
The letter also informed students that, due to conflicts with Regents exams, they may be asked to pick up their actual diplomas sometime after the graduation ceremony.
The $18.8 million construction project was approved by voters in March and is being financed largely through state building aid and bonds. The Duanesburg Central School District is being reimbursed nearly 80 percent for the project, but $3 million in district reserve funds are being put toward the plan. The aim s to repair, renovate and upgrade facilities at the elementary and junior/senior high school buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
But for senior Angela Sorrentino, the possibility of not getting her actual diploma on graduation day threatens to spoil an important life milestone.
“It’s not so much that they’re changing the date, it’s that we don’t get our diplomas on time. It’s frustrating,” said Sorrentino, the senior class co-president.
There’s also concern among students and faculty, she said, that some seniors who may not have earned the right to graduate will be walking across the stage on June 17.
“I think, obviously, graduating high school is a pretty big deal to most people, and someone who hasn’t done the work and earned it shouldn’t receive the same honor as someone who has earned it,” she said.
Other students feel cut out of the process. Senior Sarah White said the change doesn’t bother her too much, but she understands the consternation among her classmates, as “it seems like people are also mad about it because they didn’t consult our class.”
Both White and Sorrentino said they’ve spoken with classmates who have family members who now have to change their travel plans.
“I’m not particularly worked up about it, but I do understand why other people are angry,” said White. “I know it seems like we have enough time, but it is a little short notice; people already have travel plans with their families.”
White said she’s spoken with one classmate whose grandparents had to cancel their flights.
Senior Mark Nicolella isn’t too bothered by the date change either, but he feels the district could have planned better for the capital project's impact on the school.
“I’m not dragging the school over the coals here, but I personally think it would've been a lot easier for the students, school and everyone else if they planned ahead of time so they wouldn’t be throwing everyone a curveball,” he said.
“I feel like they could have done it in a different way, rather than not telling anyone beforehand,” she said.
Students were informed of the change just days before winter break, which began Dec. 24. Students return to school Jan. 3.
Nicolella added that it will be “a little bizarre” to not receive a diploma on graduation day, and he said the date change may affect those students who still have to take a Regents exam after graduation.
Duanesburg Central School District Superintendent Christine Crowley said in an email that only those seniors who are taking the chemistry Regents exam -- a small fraction of the roughly 70 graduates this year -- may have their diplomas affected by the test. Even then, she said, it’s just a matter of affixing a gold seal to those students’ diplomas.
Crowley did not know how many seniors are scheduled to take the chemistry Regents, but she added that she’s only heard from one parent who was concerned about the date change.
“As I'm sure you know, it is difficult to squeeze in all the capital project work in the brief time in the summer,” Crowley said in an email regarding the district’s rationale. “The district has provided six months notice for ample graduation planning time.”
To Sorrentino’s concern, Crowley said only those students who are receiving diplomas will take part in the graduation ceremony, and the district has a graduation rate of 98 percent.
Crowley added that, although the district hasn’t yet decided whether to give students their diplomas or just the covers on June 17, many schools only hand out the covers on graduation day to ensure the right student gets the right diploma.
She said district officials did consider alternatives to moving graduation up a week, such as moving the ceremony to another location or starting the 2017-18 school year a bit later, but those alternatives came with their own drawbacks.
“The community has supported this project financially, and we want to make sure their money is well spent, quality work is performed and our school reopens as scheduled in September,” she said.
Sorrentino said there hasn’t been an organized effort to protest the new graduation date because everyone has been on winter break, but such an effort might develop when school resumes. White added that even though the news broke right before winter break, it’s been a topic of discussion among seniors.
“We did just hear about it, but it’s been a hot topic the last two weeks,” she said.