In a special meeting of the Duncan Public Schools Board of Education hosted Wednesday evening, the board discussed a rental contract with the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in the amount of $1,100 for hosting the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021.
During the meeting, Deighan said they incurred a few disruptions last year, such as the lightning storm, which disrupted the Class of 2020’s graduation ceremony.
“It was a strange year, this year we have a lot concern about that happening if COVID is not under control by the end of May, seating capacity with our auditorium is going to be about 600 at our current guidelines which is where we are,” Deighan said.
According to Deighan, there has been a lot of consultation with Principal Wade Hampton and the senior sponsors.
“At this point, we haven’t made a decision or not to move it, but we did this option to even consider this,” Deighan said.
With no official decision at the board meeting, this would be an option for the board to consider.
“Some of things we’re running in to is 40% of our graduations in the last five years have been interrupted by storms, maybe more in the last seven,” Deighan said. “Last year, we had an option to go to the auditorium. This year, we’re not 100% sure because of COVID and so we really just have got to sit down with the sponsors and Mr. Hampton and … really sit down and consider what our real options are.”
According to Deighan, the reason this is on the agenda now is because they need to make a decision soon.
“If we use the Halliburton Stadium or we use the fairgrounds, those decisions we need to make now because there’s a lot of planning either way,” Deighan said.
With the decision in motion, the administration would need to make a decision in the next week or so to be able to secure the date for graduation.
“We won’t submit the payment,” Deighan said, “until I officially notify everybody.”
Deighan said they understand they are talking about tradition.
“After last year — my first graduation in Duncan — only half the kids got to walk,” Deighan said. “We didn’t have the option to go back to the auditorium. Right now we’re really weighing tradition or the ability to 100% promise our students and grandmas and everyone else the chance to have a full graduation.”
The board questioned the capacity of the seats available at the fairgrounds.
Deighan said after talking to Matt Byerly, Fairground manager, “he’s gotten 3,000 seats in there before, but we would probably keep it close to what we’re expecting, that way we can socially distance.”
According to Deighan, in addition to having the air conditioning, the doors can be opened for air flow.
Deighan said there would be no problem with smell either.
“The first time I was in there was for the fish fry and I sat next to the Governor and first lady, I did not know that was a rodeo grounds on the other side of the plastic,” Deighan said.
Deighan said he has visited the fairground four times in the last week and they are working through this process and will have further discussion with everybody.
Boardmember Eric Davis said in the contract, they set up the stage and everything, they have a sound system there, as well as asking if they need to replace DPS’s stage.
“We have to either replace it or resurface it,” Deighan said. “So far, Deborah does not think we can resurface it this time — they have the stage, they do all the work.”
According to Deighan, the sound system rental is as much as the rental cost for everything at the fairgrounds.
“We spend $1,200 just to rent the sound system that comes out of the senior class budget, just to rent the sound system for Halliburton Stadium,” Deighan said. “It’s $1,100 for all of that. It’s just more of a turn key operation, we can spend a lot more money on decorations.”
Boardmember Chris Schreckengost clarified the football field would be open for those who wanted to get photos.
“I have a feeling that would be several different occasions for that to happen in addition to that one,” Dieghan said. “The best day would of course be the day of graduation.”
Schreckengost said he appreciates the board coming up with an alternative plan.
“As a boardmember, I commend you guys for coming up with a plan to make sure that the kids get to walk,” Schreckengost said. “I’ve been on the board for — this will be my sixth — I’ve been on the board for five, two have been interrupted by rain and so this ensures all the kids would get to be able to walk and I appreciate that.”
Davis said this would enable families the chance to see their kid walk across the graduation stage.
“If this guarantees it, I don’t see the problem,” Davis said.
The board approved the rental contract to secure the date with the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center, but have not officially decided if this is where graduation will take place.
The next Duncan Public School Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. April. 13, 2021, at the Administration Building at 1706 W. Spruce, Duncan.