Parents of members of the Rhinelander High School Class of 2021 are being asked for their preference as to when the 2021 commencement ceremony will be held. The school district is looking at either Friday evening or Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend.
The school board may make a final decision at its Monday meeting.
The operations and strategic planning committee passed the decision on to the full board following a discussion Dec. 9 on the topic of the district's 2020-2021 school year calendar.
The calendar originally called for Friday, May 28 as the graduation date, but committee members expressed some concern about that date.
"That's Memorial Day weekend?" board member David Holperin asked.
"Correct," replied district superintendent Kelli Jacobi. "That has been one of the holdups for this calendar. The board had previously decided to do it (graduation) the weekend before the last day of school. In this calendar, that's Memorial Day weekend."
"Why wouldn't we do it Thursday instead of Friday? I would think people travel for Memorial Day weekend," Holperin said. "They probably want to start their traveling on Friday."
Jacobi said that Friday will be a full school day, according the proposed calendar.
"We looked at Friday evening, Saturday afternoon or evening or Sunday afternoon," she said. "The recommendation from the high school, and they talked about it in the building in their leadership team, and they wanted to do it Friday evening. We checked with districts that we knew of that regularly have graduation on Memorial Day weekend, because it is the first time in my knowledge that we've ever done this."
She said the response the administration got from other districts was that parents preferred a Friday graduation.
"I mean, it's historic in their towns, it gives people time to come for graduation that might not be able to otherwise," Jacobi said. "We understand that this is going to be surprising, but if families could start their long weekends, if they chose to, on Saturday morning after a Friday graduation."
That would still leave a three-day weekend, she noted.
Committee chair Mike Roberts asked if students or their parents were polled for their preference.
"Just the (RHS) staff," Jacobi replied.
Holperin was asked what options the staff were given when polled, and Jacobi replied the question was simple: "when do you want to have graduation?"
"I just wonder if we should poll the class of 2021," Roberts asked. "Can we do an online poll?"
"I know there are people who would like the calendar now," Jacobi replied.
"I think this (Friday graduation) is much more advantageous for our staff. I just don't know if it would be for students and parents on a Friday night," Roberts explained.
Board member Ron Lueneburg asked how the public might react to the board making the decision without parent input.
Roberts pointed out another thing to be taken into consideration is that there are a lot of parties planned around graduation weekend that would probably result in many families not traveling that weekend. He again pushed for the affected families to be given a choice between Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
"And see how it polls," Roberts said, adding if all of the people who have looked at it so far think that Friday would be best, the parents would probably also make that decision.
Board member Duane Frey noted that if an explanation is sent out to the parents explaining why graduation is on Friday, they would probably understand. He agreed that there would still be three days of the holiday weekend left.
"If you poll two choices, it's going to end up one way or the other," Roberts replied.
Holperin noted that some relatives of the graduates travel to Rhinelander from out of town and a Friday graduation may make that difficult.
"They're probably traveling on Friday, maybe even Saturday," Holperin said. "Maybe Sunday would be a better day for that? That would be all the more reason for them to come to Rhinelander and not miss graduation."
"It goes both ways," Jacobi said. "You got family able to come for graduation, it's very helpful to do it on Sunday afternoon. We want our staff to be able to come, our teachers - especially high school teachers. And if they have other things going on that they want to be able to travel to that weekend, will they still be available (to attend on Sunday)?"
The graduation date was the only point of contention in the proposed calendar, Jacobi said.
"We have a lot of people waiting to see the holidays and school trips that are being planned that always happen over spring break," she noted.
She then suggested than an email could be sent to the parents of the class of 2021 that would contain a link to the poll.
Parents could be given a deadline of noon Monday and the results would then be available to the full board Monday evening.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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