Students protest indoor graduation plan

April 22, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - About 130 Chambersburg Area Senior High School students walked out of their school Thursday morning to protest a decision to move their graduation inside to the school gymnasium.

They also circulated petitions and presented them to administrators.

The decision to move the commencement exercises inside was made because the bleachers in 6,500-seat Trojan Stadium have been declared unsafe by school officials.

Trojan Stadium was closed last month after a bleacher floorboard broke.

A former student helping out at a track meet in March was unhurt when the board gave way. Broken boards have been reported several times over the years, school officials said. Many have been replaced.


Trojan Stadium is the traditional graduation site for CASHS.

The only time it moves into the air-conditioned gym is when it rains on graduation day, Schools Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

Becky Brenzinger, senior class treasurer and president of the student government, said if the June 7 graduation is held in the gymnasium "there's going to be a huge riot. The seniors are already talking about it, about bringing air horns," she said.

The problem with the gym, according to Brenzinger and Mark Epstein, senior class president, is that space limits tickets to two guests per graduating senior. There is no room for extended family members or friends.

Last year, more than 500 seniors received their diplomas.

Sponseller said those who can't get into the gym can watch the ceremony on closed-circuit television in the school auditorium and cafeteria.

Epstein said most seniors want the graduation to be held outdoors in a live setting, not on closed-circuit television.

Brenzinger said the students suggested to school officials that the graduation be held on the football field.

"They could bring in portable bleachers like they do for band concerts," she said.

The students suggested that plan to CASHS Principal Barry Purvis.

"He said it was a school board decision, to go to them," Brenzinger said.

Sponseller said the district's administration recommended holding the graduation at Heiges Field House at Shippensburg (Pa.) University, but the school board decided to keep it on campus.

Purvis suggested holding it in the gym.

Students also suggested that chairs could be set up for parents, relatives and friends to watch the commencement.

Stanley Helman, a member of the Chambersburg Area School Board, said the board discounted the football field idea because the chairs would have to be set up on one level.

"We felt it would not be workable," he said. "Only the people sitting in the first few rows would be able to see."

Helman said the gym was chosen because most of the students the board spoke with said they wanted the graduation to be held on the school campus.

Sponseller said Thursday's student protest and petitions would have no effect on the board's decision.

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