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After rained-out graduations, Grego seeks indoor options

A graduate heads to his car after the first session of Countryside High School’s graduation, which was held in the school gym because of the rain. That forced the graduation to be split into two sessions because of the gym’s small size.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

A graduate heads to his car after the first session of Countryside High School’s graduation, which was held in the school gym because of the rain. That forced the graduation to be split into two sessions because of the gym’s small size.

Pinellas County school officials are seeking more options for indoor graduation ceremonies after half the high schools that planned outdoor ceremonies had to reschedule for rain last week.

When outdoor ceremonies had to reschedule, some parents — who had taken off work or had out-of-town relatives visiting — were peeved.

Superintendent Michael Grego said Monday he is in "preliminary talks" with officials at Tropicana Field to increase the number of graduations held at the stadium, possibly more than two a day.

"They're very open to it," Grego said.

He also named the University of South Florida's Sun Dome, which hosted two Pinellas graduations this year, as a potential spot for more ceremonies next year.

Grego said he will broach the subject at his next monthly meeting with the district's principals, and will make any next steps after the Rays' schedule comes out later in the summer. Eight of the district's 16 high schools had indoor graduations this year, with five of them at the Trop.

"I think Tropicana is our main goal here," School Board member Linda Lerner said.

Lerner attended the Seminole High ceremony, originally planned for Thursday evening at Bright House Field. "It seemed like things were clearing up, but then again, there was that tornado watch until 10 p.m.," Lerner said. The graduation was rescheduled for Friday, in a church.

Countryside had planned to graduate its seniors at Bright House Field on Thursday morning, but quickly moved the ceremony into the school's gym. The high school had to split graduation into two ceremonies because the gym was not large enough to hold all of the seniors' guests.

The principal, Gary Schlereth, said Countryside was "limited in where it could go." His understanding was that Tropicana Field already was holding as many ceremonies as it could, but that's a notion Grego wants to re-examine.

For other high schools, an outdoor ceremony is a matter of tradition. Tarpon Springs, St. Petersburg and Lakewood all planned to hold commencement on their football fields. St. Petersburg and Lakewood had to reschedule.

Grego said he would not require any schools to move their ceremonies indoors or institute a one-size-fits-all ceremony such as in Hillsborough County. All of that district's schools hold graduations at Expo Hall, the indoor arena at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

"The weather in Florida is a tough one," Grego said. "We're going to take a look at what we can do to provide indoor venues for those who want it."

Contact Lisa Gartner at lgartner@tampabay.com. You can also follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

After rained-out graduations, Grego seeks indoor options 06/10/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 12:30am]
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