Lakewood High, one of several Pinellas County schools facing potential washouts of their outdoor graduation ceremonies because of Tropical Storm Andrea, was the first to move its ceremony indoors.
Eying an increasingly dire weather forecast, principal Bob Vicari rescheduled the graduation from this evening on the football field to Friday morning in the school's auditorium.
"I don't want to take any chances with anyone getting injured on a soggy field," Vicari said Wednesday.
By late Wednesday, no other Pinellas school had announced plans to move indoors.
Because Lakewood's auditorium is too small to hold all 320 graduates and their guests, the school will hold two ceremonies. Female students will graduate at an 8 a.m. ceremony that Vicari expects to last an hour and a half, leaving 30 minutes for parents to clear out before the male students' 10 a.m. ceremony begins.
Planning an outdoor graduation ceremony in Florida is always risky, as the end of the school year coincides with the onset of hurricane season.
But students at Lakewood and other area high schools have continued to lobby for outdoor ceremonies, citing tradition. St. Petersburg High still planned to celebrate its 88th consecutive graduation ceremony on its football field today, when the chance of rain is 80 percent.
Some Lakewood parents were frustrated by the decision to reschedule, particularly by the choice of Friday morning. Larre Davis said her son's grandmother, aunts and other relatives now will be unable to attend the ceremony because they have to work.
"By the grace of God I took off work Thursday and Friday, but my son has family members who were there when he was born who will not be able to see him graduate," Davis said.
In Hernando County, Springstead High School's outdoor graduation was rescheduled from Wednesday to Friday as administrators grew wary of weather forecasts. The decision was made Monday.
Kelly Muir, a Springstead parent, wrote in an email to the school's principal that she was frustrated Springstead did not keep the date and time and simply move the event indoors.
"There are students who had graduation parties scheduled for Friday evening, with nonrefundable deposits, that will now not happen," Muir said. "There are students that had already planned vacations and will now not be able to walk at one of the most important ceremonies of their lives, their high school graduation."
Staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected]