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Facilities prepped for graduation day

The stages are set and Charleston Civic Center staffers are busy putting the final touches on preparations for the whirlwind of graduation ceremonies kicking off today.

Eight Kanawha County schools will hold commencements in the Civic Center's Coliseum or the Municipal Auditorium over the next four days.

Putnam County's high schools will begin ceremonies in the Coliseum and Auditorium starting June 2, said John Robertson, Civic Center general manager.

The boards of education decide which schools will use which facility, he said. Some schools do make a specific request.

"Some have become accustomed to those specific facilities," he said.

South Charleston's seniors will be the first to walk when their ceremony starts at 7 p.m. today in the Civic Center Coliseum.

Sissonville will be second at 7:30 p.m. in the Municipal Auditorium.

Others include:

  • Herbert Hoover - 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Municipal Auditorium.
  • Capital - 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Coliseum.
  • George Washington - 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Municipal Auditorium.
  • Riverside - 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Coliseum. 
  • Nitro - 7 p.m. Thursday in the Municipal Auditorium.
  • St. Albans - 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Coliseum. 

This year's ceremonies are a bit different in that they begin at the first of the week, Robertson said.

The ceremonies usually begin in the middle of the week and run through a weekend.

The ceremonies had to start on Monday this year because the school calendar specified when the seniors must be finished with classes.

That doesn't affect the preparations for the ceremonies.

"It's all the same to us," Robertson said.

The basic skeleton for the ceremonies, such as the stage, doesn't change much from school to school, he said. The staff has to make minor changes, like making sure there is the proper number of seats to accommodate the seniors and faculty members, Robertson said.

A lot of planning takes place before the ceremonies begin.

"These are big events," he said. "We want to make sure they go well."

Staff members work throughout the night to have the facilities ready for the seniors graduating the next day.  

Security is one of the issues hashed out before seniors take to the stage. Seniors will be required to walk through security equipment at the door. Security personnel can check all bags, including purses and camera bags, Robertson said.

"And we're not letting people bring in any wrapped gifts," he said.

Robertson is also working with city and county police officers to ensure safe events for the seniors.

"Both departments will have a presence at the facilities," he said.

For the most part, the graduation ceremonies are dignified, but occasionally an issue must be addressed, Robertson said.

"Let's just say that from time to time we have some people who are celebrating in a fashion that is inappropriate to the situation and it becomes a disturbance to the people on the stage," he said. "We have to work to manage those situations."

The Kanawha County Board of Education picks up the tab for renting the facilities, Robertson said.

The cost of renting the facilities for all eight ceremonies is $12,400.

Putnam County's schools pay individually to use the facilities, Robertson said.

Winfield and Poca high schools will pay $1,250 each and Hurricane pays $4,500.

The Poca ceremony is set for 2 p.m. June 2 in the Municipal Auditorium; Hurricane for 7 p.m. June 4 in the Coliseum; and Winfield for 7 p.m. June 6 in the Municipal Auditorium.

Seniors at Buffalo High School will graduate in their new school building in a ceremony that begins at 7 p.m. June 3.  

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at

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