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Students to vote on graduation site

March 19, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

The 298 Waynesboro Area Senior High School seniors slated to graduate June 10 may receive their diplomas at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md., breaking a 41-year-old Waynesboro tradition.

The seniors will vote on the site of their graduation Thursday. Members of the Waynesboro Area School Board are willing to let the students decide.

Katy Hatfield, a senior and the student representative to the school board, said seniors are happy that school officials are allowing them to decide on a site.

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"They're not making us go where they want. It's our choice," she said.

Hatfield said she has no sense how her fellow students will vote. Some say that since they spent their high school career at Waynesboro Area Senior High School they want to graduate from there, she said.

Hatfield told board members Tuesday that problems at the local high school gym, the site of the 2002 commencement exercises, showed that the gym is no longer adequate to hold such a large crowd.

Currently, each senior is allowed a maximum of six tickets for family and friends. Hatfield said the Knott Arena at Mount St. Mary's College has a capacity of 4,100.

"Tickets are unlimited," she said.

The graduation was scheduled to be held outside last year, like it has in two of the last five years, but rain changed those plans and the graduates, faculty, administrators, family and friends crowded into the gym.

The weather was hot and humid and the gym does not have air conditioning, Hatfield said.

Hatfield said about 130 people had to leave the gym because of the stifling conditions.

Hatfield said an outdoor venue is preferable for the event but the weather is always a question.

She said Jamie Verderosa, principal of the high school, checked into possible sites, including Penn State Mont Alto, Hagerstown Community College and The Maryland Theatre.

All were either too small or had no air conditioning, Hatfield said.

Another concern is accessibility for a handicapped senior in a wheelchair, she said.

Gloria Pugliano, assistant superintendent of schools, said the school district expects to have to pay between $11,000 and $12,000 to build a ramp for the handicapped senior if the graduation is held in Waynesboro. The Mount St. Mary's facility is handicapped accessible, she said.

Officials at Mount St. Mary's are holding the June 10 date open, Pugliano said.

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