Richmond County Board of Education staff had to tweak the traditional Monday and Tuesday graduation dates this year because of a scheduling conflict with the James Brown Arena.
The arena booked a Lady Antebellum concert on Tuesday, May 22, the second day of graduations, even though Lynn Warr, the executive director of high schools, said her office reserved the date last year but didn’t sign a contract with the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, which runs the arena.
The school board’s Student Services Committee voted Tuesday to reschedule graduations for Sunday, May 20, and Monday, May 21. The measure will come up for final approval by the full board at its regular meeting next Tuesday.
Another option would have been to hold the first day of graduation on May 21 at James Brown Arena and have the second round at the William Bell Auditorium on May 22.
Board members unanimously agreed the Bell would not accompany enough people for a comfortable ceremony.
“Most people feel like I feel ... and they feel like it’s nothing wrong with having a graduation on Sunday,” said board member Barbara Pulliam. “Grandmommas come from far and near, and they all want to be at the graduations.”
It will cost $3,500 to rent the arena each day with a $600 setup fee, along with other usages fees. The Bell costs $1,700 to rent, but the school system would have to move all the equipment from the arena to the Bell, along with paying two setup fees, if officials chose the second option.
Pulliam also asked for measures to be put in place so the graduation dates aren’t taken again in the future.
Warr said the school system normally books the dates a year in advance but signs a contract for the agreement the January before the graduation.
“Lesson learned, in the future we need to not only schedule the graduation dates but have a signed contract when the fiscal year begins in July,” Warr wrote board members in a memo.
While some parents told board members the Sunday ceremony could conflict with church services, board President Alex Howard said he doesn’t think the ceremony will be an inconvenience.
“We just have to suck it up and do it on a Sunday,” he said.