graduation amphitheater
Montclair High School’s Class of 2018 enters the amphitheater for their graduation ceremony on June 21, 2018. FILE PHOTO

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

It’s back to the amphitheater for Montclair High School’s graduation.

The ceremony will take place in its traditional venue on the school grounds on June 26, weather permitting.

Montclair school officials expected the amphitheater to not be available for use in June due to planned asbestos removal and stairwell replacement in the high the school set to begin in May. The school will be closed from May 20.

Superintendent Kendra Johnson made the venue announcement during the March 6 BOE meeting.

The district had been considering four venues outside of the high school: Montclair State University, Woodman Field, the Wellmont Theater and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

In a subsequent interview, Johnson said the decision to hold the ceremony in the amphitheater, rather than one of the four off-site venues being considered, was based on students’ input.

“The students overwhelmingly would like to keep graduation in the amphitheater. This is their graduation so I must, and will, honor their decision,” she said.

The school had sent out a survey to seniors and their parents asking where they wanted the graduation ceremony to be held.

Students usually assemble in the high school gym prior to the ceremony. Since the gym will be closed off, students will assemble in the George Inness Annex across the street instead.

Johnson said that Montclair State University did not have any indoor venues large enough to accommodate both the graduates and the audience.

Montclair State University and Woodman Field would have been contingent on the weather. The Wellmont Theater had a limited number of seats, which meant each family would only receive two tickets. The New Jersey Institute of Technology was large enough, but the district would prefer not to have the ceremony outside of Montclair, Johnson said.

In May, construction crews will begin asbestos removal ahead of the staircase rebuilding project. A staircase in the original section of the high school collapsed in September, and the district’s architects determined that all four staircases in that part of the building will need replacing.

Rain date problems

The question of what to do in the event of rain still needs to be determined. At the meeting, Johnson announced that the ceremony could be held at the Codey Arena in West Orange, but would have to be rescheduled to a different date from June 26. Parents said that would pose problems for the Project Graduation festivities, as well as any plans that students have in the days following the ceremony.

Project Graduation includes the students riding on a convoy of school buses through Montclair, with parents lining the streets to watch, before departing for the graduation party site.

“It’s been a very hard year for us, our seniors [would be] disappointed if they don’t get to do Project Graduation the night of graduation,” said Kathy Mytaras of the Project Graduation steering committee.

Not having a specific rain date would be problematic, she said, adding money has already been spent to book the Project Graduation venue. “Having a rain date without knowing the day is a little bit of a nightmare,” she said.

Another problem with a rain date is that many students have internships or vacations scheduled, including the day after the scheduled graduation date. “As a senior parent, I have a problem because my son will be at freshman orientation at college literally the next day [after the scheduled ceremony date],” she said.

After the meeting, Johnson said the district was less likely to consider Codey Arena for a rain date as a result of the discussions at the meeting, and that the details were still being worked out.