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Some grads sweat out wait for diploma

Posted June 11, 2008

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— Seniors at seven Wake County seniors high schools and their families are preparing for sweltering heat during graduation ceremonies inside venues that lack air conditioning.

Leesville Road and Millbrook high schools were the first to take their turn in North Carolina State University's Reynolds Coliseum, which lacks air conditioning.

Audience members estimated the temperature inside the building was between 85 and 90 degrees on Wednesday evening.

"With this thing on, the heat doesn't get out," graduate Joshua English said, pointing to his gown. "I was basically boiling."

"We did have some family members that weren't able to make it because of the heat," his mother, Lisa, said.

The school system must use Reynolds, because it is the only facility in the area that can hold enough people and guarantee dates far enough in advance, said Greg Thomas, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System.

Thomas said scheduling rules out using the RBC Center. Planning for graduations begins up to a year before, and the RBC managers can't commit to date that early, due to potential conflicts with events such as hockey playoffs, Thomas said.

Organizers said they have plans in place to make the graduations as comfortable as possible.

  • Water will be available for sale inside.
  • Cooling stations will be set up at the north entrance.
  • Grads, families and friends are encouraged to dress for cool comfort.
  • Extra fans will be deployed throughout the venue.

Principals pledged to try to keep the ceremonies to under an hour and 15 minutes.

Cary and Wake Forest-Rolesville high schools will hold their graduation ceremonies at Reynolds on Thursday, Wakefield on Friday, and Apex, Enloe, Garner and Green Hope on Saturday. Southeast Raleigh held its graduation at Reynolds on May 31.

Other schools have the benefit of a cooler environment. Fuquay-Varina, Athens Drive, Knightdale and East Wake high schools will hold their ceremonies in Raleigh's air-conditioned Memorial Auditorium.

Thomas said the problem of holding graduation ceremonies in un-air-conditioned venues will be relieved after the new Raleigh Convention Center opens this September.

"Next year, when the civic center is reopened, we shouldn't be facing these issues," Thomas said.

Parents of some graduates said they would just try to deal with the uncomfortable temperatures as best as possible.

"It's kind of hard, but when you are thinking about what you are there for, you kind of ignore that," Jackie McCummings, the mother of a graduate, said.


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  • wisdomfromhindsight Jun 12, 2008

    My little brother was the one quoted here. It was definitely hot inside Reynolds and I'm really not sure what the RBC centers excuse was. I was able to sweat it out though, the biggest problem I had was that no matter where you were sitting it was impossible to hear a darn thing in there because no one was considerate enough to shut up.

  • seidenberg Jun 12, 2008

    Football stadiums are not a great solution. First a stage has to be built, chairs rented, a Sound System rented and then you pray (or whatever) it doesn't rain. A few years ago Hoke High had to move indoors and because the kids mastered technology, there was a shortage of space and a riot due to counterfeit tickets. Pinecrest High will go outdoors at 8:00 am to beat the heat. There are 2 advantages to a morning ceremony. 1 Most of the time T'storms pop up in the late afternoon-early evening time frame so you have improved your chances to get the ceremony off. 2. Morning events stop the Football Friday Night atmosphere and helps maintain decorum, plus it doesn't give as much time for people to get liquored up before the event.
    I have been doing sound for graduations for over 20 years and there is always a compromise when going outdoors

  • grenlyn1 Jun 12, 2008

    Poor planning on Wake County's part. With dangerously high temperatures this past week, anything can happen during a ceremony. I would much rather take my chances with a rainy graduation then put up with the sweltering heat due to lack of AC. What are these people thinking? Geez

  • mramorak Jun 11, 2008

    give me a break!

  • yeah Jun 11, 2008

    If the grad ceremonies were held at their high schools, think of all the gas saved instead of driving to Raleigh - 1st for practice and then for the actual ceremony.

  • Here kitty kitty Jun 11, 2008

    I sat through graduation last year at Reynolds at 2pm and it was hot and miserble. I am so glad I do not have to attend any more graduations. My son's girlfriend graduates today and I have to work (no tickets anyway). And think about it...you could get at least 2 schools in RBC center at one time!!!

  • Tired Of Excuses Jun 11, 2008

    With temperatures this high they are SELLING WATER????
    I have a real problem with this.

  • yeah Jun 11, 2008

    WCPSS is suggesting a light dress code yet the male graduates must wear dark dress pant, socks, shoes and a shirt and tie under their polyester gown!!

  • mramorak Jun 11, 2008

    Good job i say to the grads who where able to stay away from all the folks out there who try to bring you down.

  • jobchick2004 Jun 11, 2008

    Justin T.

    My high school graduation in 1984 was with air conditioning . . .Enloe High School--was in the "then" Civic Center.