Newton graduations to be held at Sharp Stadium

COVINGTON -- Newton County high school graduations will be held at Homer Sharp Stadium this school year, but things could get complicated if the weather is rainy.

Samantha Fuhrey, executive director of Secondary Education at the Newton County School System, informed members of the Newton County Board of Education of the selection of the location during its monthly meeting Tuesday.

NCSS also had been considering Church in the Now in Conyers, where graduations have been held for the past several years.

System officials didn't answer a question Wednesday about the reason the church would not be used, but earlier this year a spokesman for the Evangelical Christian Credit Union said that his company prefers not to rent the building to outside groups.

The graduation schedule will remain as announced earlier this school year -- the Eastside High School graduation is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, May 25; Alcovy for 9 a.m. Saturday, May 26, and Newton for 7 p.m. the same day. Each will last roughly an hour, Fuhrey said.

However, NCSS has developed a rain delay schedule in the event of severe weather.

Fuhrey said if there is light rain, graduations will continue as scheduled.

However, "I don't think it's going to be pretty if it's wet," she said.

But if there are heavy rains, thunder and lightning, the superintendent will institute a 60-minute delay. If system officials determine graduation ceremonies cannot continue after that delay, there are two alternate times over the following two days.

Eastside's graduation would be moved to 9 a.m. Sunday, May 27, or 10 a.m. after a 60-minute rain delay, or 9 a.m. Monday, May 28, if Sunday gets rained out, or 10 a.m. after a 60-minute rain delay; Alcovy's would be 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. May 27 or May 28; and Newton's would be 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. May 27 or May 28.

"There are at least six opportunities" to have graduation ceremonies, Fuhrey said.

Delays would be announced via the NCSS website, Facebook and Twitter pages and automated calls on School Messenger to parents.

System officials didn't say how long before scheduled graduations an announcement would be made regarding a rain delay, and school board member Almond Turner said he also was concerned about guests who arrive to graduations early getting soaked and the field becoming extremely wet even in continuous light rain.

Raincoats and hats will be permitted, as well as umbrellas when there is heavy rain, although system officials asked that guests be considerate of those sitting behind them by using umbrellas only when necessary and not using them as sunshades.

"We've never done this before, so it's going to be an experiment definitely," Fuhrey said.

Mathews added that many school systems across Georgia have outside graduations and deal with rain.

NCSS Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said a cost for the graduations is not yet available; officials have discussed bringing in sound equipment and other materials like chairs and tents for the ceremonies.

"We are working through this piece," he said Wednesday.

The cost to use the Church in the Now was about $9,000, or $3,000 per graduation, last school year.

Sharp Stadium holds 4,100 guests; system officials did not say when students would be notified on the number of tickets they would receive for graduation this year.