By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Big changes could be in store for Goshen High School’s graduation ceremony this spring.
According to GHS Principal Barry Younghans, attendance at the high school’s graduation ceremony has been growing significantly each year for the past few years, raising concerns about safety as attendee numbers grow into the thousands.
In an effort to remedy the situation, Younghans brought a suggestion to the Goshen Board of School Trustees Monday evening that would involve issuing a set number of tickets to each graduating senior at the high school. The students would then be able to give those tickets to relatives and family members they would like to attend the graduation, but it would limit the number to only those with tickets.
“So this is more about trying to do things officially, and effectively, and safely,” Younghans said. “We’ve had huge, huge turnouts. You’ve all been there. You remember last year we had the lady who passed out and we couldn’t get to her. It just took a long time. So I’ve been talking with the assistant principals, the secretaries and some of the senior class sponsors, and what I’m kicking around is having tickets available to seniors.”
In discussing how many tickets each student might get, Younghans began by noting that this year’s graduating class is made up of over 410 students, approximately 30 students more than last year’s total of 380 students.
“So what I’m thinking about doing is six tickets per graduate,” Younghans said. “That would leave us with about 500 remaining tickets to fill the gym. We have seating for 3,025.”
To properly implement the ticket system, Younghans noted that there are several logistical issues that would need to be sorted out in order to make sure seating at the ceremony is handled properly.
“Obviously there are a couple things that will have to happen if we do this,” Younghans said. “We will have to have additional security at the doors, because we’ll set it up like a basketball game. You’ll have to have a ticket to get in. I can’t have high school seniors and juniors telling parents they can’t come in, so we’ll have to have police at every door.”
Acknowledging that sometimes unforeseen issues come up with relatives, etc., Younghans said he has considered several options that would allow for additional tickets to be doled out, such as allowing students who don’t need all six of their tickets to give their extras to fellow students who need them.
“In my mind I’m thinking about things that we can’t plan for, like a grandparent showing up at the last minute,” Younghans said. “We’ve got to have a way to get those people in. So what I’m thinking is we’ll tell people if they need more tickets up to that Thursday (before graduation), people could come and get tickets up until that Thursday afternoon or Friday. Then what I’m thinking is we’d basically have a roll call, and have 150 extra tickets at Door M, and then say at 10 minutes until 2 p.m. (graduation day), you can come and get tickets if there are any remaining.”
Another option Younghans said he is toying with is doing some kind of closed-circut TV feed into the auditorium for those who can’t fit into the gym, though he added that such an option is most likely just and intermediate step in trying to handle the overcrowding problem.
“If we hit 500 kids in a graduating class,” Younghans said, “we’re probably going to have to do something anyway.”
While not seeking immediate approval from the board Monday, Younghans asked board members to think on the suggestion over the next week or two and then let him know their feelings on the concept.
‘We have letters drafted that will go out in English and Spanish,” Younghans said. “We’ll start sending those out probably in the next two to three weeks so that we’ll start talking to seniors about it. Nothing’s going to change as far as the graduates, it’s just going to be how their guests get into the building. The big part is educating our guests to the process and educating our students.”
Honors Banquet Changes
In other business, Younghans notified board members of a possible plan to remove freshman honors students from the corporation’s annual Honors Banquet in yet another effort to reduce ever-growing attendance sizes.
“Since 2009, we had 178 students, 197 in 2010, 188 in 2011, in 2012 we had 214 students, and this year we’re projecting to have 204,” Younghans said of the Honors Banquet. “If you have been to that thing at the Essenhaus, you know how crowded that thing is. It is wonderful. This is not an indictment on anything. This is just the way it is. It’s a good problem to have.”
Even so, Younghans noted that attendance to the annual banquet is getting to the point where something has to be done in order to keep numbers from getting out of hand.
As one possible way to shave number, Younghans proposed honoring the school’s freshmen at their own, smaller banquet, possibly at the high school. Such a change, he said, would reduce the number of students honored at the traditional Honors Banquet by approximately 50 students.
“My proposal would be that we should honor the freshmen at GHS in the evening, invite their parents in,” Younghans said.
Even so, Younghans said he does not want the freshman students to feel that making honors as a freshman is somehow not as great an accomplishment as it has been in the past. In order to avoid that scenario, he suggested having several senior honors students attend the freshman event to talk to them about what is to come and show them video clips and excerpts of speeches taken from the actual Honors Banquet.
“I would like the freshman thing to have a senior student who has graduated with honors talk to those kids and show video clips from the awards night,” Younghans said, “so they will still have that connection.”