Richmond Hill High School surveyed seniors and their parents this week to determine when and where they want to hold graduation.
They had two choices, according to Bryan County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Trey Robertson — graduate on the evening of Wednesday, May 21, at the Savannah Civic Center, or on the afternoon of Saturday, May 24, at Savannah State’s Tiger Arena.
The online survey ran until Friday, Richmond Hill Principal Debi McNeal said. She will tally the votes and incorporate input from the school’s graduation committee before meeting Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher and Robertson, who as assistant superintendent for operations and student services has headed up the effort to find a venue.
That’s not business as usual for RHHS. It’s also a first for McNeal, who has been in education for 17 years.
“That’s because the venue had always been secured,” she said. “This is the first time where we’ve had a competing event for a venue.”
McNeal said it was important to get seniors and their parents involved in the process in part because “some of the best decisions are made by kids,” and also because graduation is an important event.
“High school graduation is a big deal,” she said, noting the school has a large percentage of students who come from other states because of the military. “We want to give our stakeholders — our parents and our students — a choice.”
The need to find a venue for 412 students and their families became necessary after officials learned Savannah Chatham Schools had the Civic Center booked from May 21-27, meaning RHHS’ scheduled May 24 graduation date was already taken at the 6,000-seat facility.
That set in motion a discussion among school board members during a recent board workshop on options, which ran from staging graduation at a number of locations ranging from Georgia Southern to Fort Stewart to Memorial Stadium to Wildcat Stadium to the International Trade Center on Hutchinson Island. The latter location wanted to charge $30,000, administrators said, which bumped it from consideration.
Other venues weren’t right either. And Armstrong Atlantic State University, where graduations were held before they were moved to the Civic Center, is deemed too small to handle the thousands expected to attend the ceremony.
It’s unclear when a decision will be announced, but McNeal, who came here from Oconee County, doesn’t have a preference.
“I can be at either one and be happy to cheer those kids across the stage,” McNeal said.