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Civic Center hopes graduations run smoothly

By Amber Marra

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -  Seniors across Kanawha and Putnam counties will be walking across the stage and into their futures at graduation ceremonies this week and next.

Most of the schools will have ceremonies at the Charleston Civic Center or at the nearby Municipal Auditorium. The ceremonies will need to go like clockwork. Fortunately, this is a drill the Civic Center has run for many years.

John Robertson, general manager of the Civic Center, can only hope for the ceremonies to go smoothly and remain on schedule.

"You have moms, dads, aunts, and uncles that in many cases have driven long distances to see graduation, and many of the kids have plans that immediately follow it, so it is very important that we stay on schedule and that we progress to a conclusion," Robertson said.

With the number of high schools that have commencement ceremonies at either the Civic Center or Municipal Auditorium, the sailing is not unfailingly smooth.

From Kanawha County, Capital, Nitro, Riverside, St. Albans, and South Charleston high schools will have graduation at the Civic Center. George Washington, Herbert Hoover and Sissonville will use the Municipal Auditorium.

Hurricane High will be the only Putnam County school to use the Civic Center. Winfield and Poca high schools will both observe graduation at the Municipal Auditorium.

As the events roll through the two venues in the coming days, Robertson and his staff - with help from the local police and fire departments - will strive to keep ceremonies moving safely along.

Before each ceremony, bomb dogs are used to scan the area, and the buildings are secured the entire week before commencement. All graduates have to pass through metal detectors before entering the buildings, and bags searches are conducted for all evening events.

"We also prefer people to try not to bring wrapped gifts in that cannot be inspected," Robertson said.

Getting the seating arrangements in line between graduations can be hectic because each school has a different number of graduates and a different stage setup.

The Kanawha County school system provides all of the sound equipment and covers the cost of renting the Civic Center Coliseum. Robertson says the cost fluctuates depending on how many graduations are being held but can range from $2,500 to $4,000 a day.

The Municipal Auditorium rents at a flat rate of $1,150 per day.

"But there are other expenses involved, which are shared between the school and the (Kanawha County) board of education. You have to think of the cost for providing sound, lighting tech, ushers, ticket takers, and police," Robertson said.

To prepare for graduation season, Robertson also meets with principals, counselors and other administrators.

All rules and regulations that apply to the big day also apply to any practices leading up to graduation.

"The administrative staff from the schools tends to be pretty well in tune and keeps rehearsals moving along pretty good. There's a purpose to it, and the administrators try to keep it light enough to keep (graduates') attention but serious enough so they know that it's important," Robertson said.

George Washington High seniors will graduate in the Municipal Auditorium at 7 p.m. today. St. Albans graduates will receive their diplomas at 7:30 tonight in the Civic Center Coliseum.

On Friday, South Charleston High graduates will walk across the stage at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center Coliseum. Sissonville seniors will graduate in the Municipal Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. that night.

Nitro High School starts commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Civic Center Coliseum followed by Riverside at 3 p.m. and Capital High at 7:30. Herbert Hoover will have its graduation at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Municipal Auditorium.

Three Putnam County high schools will have graduation ceremonies next week with Winfield High leading at 7 p.m. June 1 in the Municipal Auditorium. The next day, Hurricane High School will graduate its seniors in the Civic Center Coliseum at 7 p.m. Poca High School will follow at 2 p.m. June 5 in the Municipal Auditorium.

Buffalo High School's graduation is 7 p.m. June 2 at the Teays Valley Missionary Baptist Church.

Contact writer Amber Marra at or 304-348-4843.


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