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.