GREENSBORO — Graduations at Guilford County Schools’ traditional high schools are set to begin about a week later than last year — a change that leaves several days between the scheduled end of school and the start of graduations.
The district is shaking up the graduation schedule for several reasons, one of which involves compliance with a state rule, Chief of Staff Nora Carr said Friday. They’ve also rearranged the order of graduations, and made changes to days used and number of graduations held per day.
Usually, the graduation schedule has been something the superintendent sets, rather than the school board, but at least one board member is raising objections this time.
“I do have concerns about it, because it’s a drastic change from what we’ve been doing — and I’ve been on the board for the past 17 years,” Vice Chairwoman Darlene Garrett said in a phone interview Friday.
She said she’s been hearing from people who had assumed the graduations would be much sooner and had already made important plans for what’s now graduation week.
Now, as the school year begins, many school families have been learning about the changes from their principals. Some families, Garrett said, probably aren’t yet aware of the change.
“I don’t know if it will become a board issue, but I hope it will,” Garrett said, adding she’s asking that they take it up.
Under the new 2018 schedule, the last day of school is set for June 8. Graduations for traditional high schools, all at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center, would begin June 13 and end June 17.
By comparison, graduations at the coliseum in 2017 finished before school did. They began June 7 and ended June 9. The school district originally planned Friday as the last day of school, but that got pushed to June 12 due to weather make-up days.
In a brief phone interview, Carr said there were four factors discussed in the decision to revamp the graduation schedule.
In the past, Carr said, some schools had graduation dates and time slots that became traditions. But she said school administrators became concerned those traditions were leaving other schools constantly drawing what she referred to as “the short straw.”
She gave Smith High School as an example. The school’s graduation has been first thing in the morning; it was at 8 a.m. on a Thursday in the 2017 schedule.
So the order of graduations is purposely reshuffled, Carr said, with plans to make a rotation going forward. This year, for example, Smith will graduate at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Another major factor in the shakeup, Carr said, is a desire to comply with a state requirement that graduations not take place during the state testing window, which includes the last five days of school.
“In the past we haven’t always followed that rule, and we are trying to bring the district into compliance, with our new superintendent,” Carr said, referring to Superintendent Sharon Contreras, who joined the district last summer.
Garrett said she’s heard some conflicting information about the state requirements on when graduation can be held and she’d like the board to get a clear explanation.
Carr also outlined what she called two smaller factors impacting the choices they made to change the schedule.
One, she said, is that they chose not to hold graduations on June 15, due to Muslim observance of Eid Al-Fitr. The holiday, which is linked to the lunar calendar, takes place at different times of the year during different years and brings closure to the month-long observance of Ramadan.
Carr said working to avoid major religious holidays squares with past district practice.
Lastly, she said, holding so many graduations per day was cumbersome. In 2017, six graduations took place on each of the first two days with three on the last day.
The plan for 2018 is four graduations the first three days and three the last day.
Garrett said Friday she’s heard from about 15 people with thoughts about the changes. All were concerned, though some at Page High School were glad to no longer be near the end of the schedule.
Carr said district leaders expect good turnout to continue under the new schedule.
“I think high school graduation is a very important day for most families and a very important day for students,” she said. “Our hope is all of our families will be able to join in and celebrate with us.”