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Mon, March 18

PHS puts graduation location up to student vote

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<p>
Prescott High School seniors celebrate at Tim’s Toyota Center May 23, 2008, during the Class of 2008 Commencement Ceremony in Prescott Valley. A plan to hold graduation at Tim’s in 2009 has caused an uproar with students and parents.

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<p> Prescott High School seniors celebrate at Tim’s Toyota Center May 23, 2008, during the Class of 2008 Commencement Ceremony in Prescott Valley. A plan to hold graduation at Tim’s in 2009 has caused an uproar with students and parents.

What the Prescott school district administrators thought was a logical decision has gotten students in an uproar.

A few months ago, Prescott High School Principal Totsy McCraley and district administrators agreed to move senior graduation to Tim's Toyota Center so the district could finish a quarter-million-dollar bleacher renovation project before monsoon season sets in.

The decision seemed final - until now.

Students, parents and alumni alike balked at the decision, sparking heated editorial commentaries in the Courier, allegations and a petition contesting the move to what many say is "in enemy territory."

The school traditionally conducts the ceremony at Prescott High School's Bill Shepard field, but moved it to Tim's Toyota Center in 2008 because of bad weather.

"It means a lot that I have both of my kids graduate where I did," said Tim Spivey, father of a PHS senior and a 2007 grad. "The other downside is they have a really big rivalry with Bradshaw Mountain. And now they're wanting to graduate them in their backyard, so to speak."

"I was really looking forward to keeping that tradition of walking off that field," said his son, Tyler, who has several family members who graduated on the campus.

From the administration's perspective, however, the school had to start the project in May or face the certainty of the project extending from late summer into the first quarter of the next school year.

Project managers Arn Lavington and Jay Collier said bleacher restoration - the bulk of the project - would take six to eight weeks, and must finish before monsoon season.

"Were not making these decisions in a vacuum," said Kevin Kapp, PUSD Superintendent, adding that the emotion tied to the decision "came to a shock to us."

Kapp said project managers and McCraley agreed that the time set for the project was the only alternative, and having the graduation at Tim's Toyota Center seemed practical after last year's event at the arena received what he described as overwhelming positive feedback.

Planning a graduation by providing seating for 4,000 people around the construction could not happen, he said.

"We're not changing high school tradition; we only want to improve the campus," McCraley said, adding that the district has not considered any contracts with Tim's.

Jeff Adams, a senior and student council president, said the administration told the student council the reasons why it had to move the graduation, though it left most students out of the loop.

"The problem is, a lot of students feel that the administration didn't really talk to them about it, and weren't informed about the decision," he said.

"For most of us, the big issue was just not giving the students the option."

So, now the district has.

On Thursday, McCraley met with senior class officers and student council members to discuss the details of the renovation project and the importance of the timeframe.

The administration will place the decision in the students' hands by a popular vote the day after spring break.

The parent-teacher organization will count the votes the following day.

"The move is to solicit input from the children, and we'll go with it," Kapp said.

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