Chanting "Sunday, not Monday," more than 100 Ramapo and Spring Valley High School seniors protested Tuesday against proposed changes to graduation.
Students said they were told by school administrators and teachers in the East Ramapo Central School District that graduation would be on a Monday instead of a Sunday, and that attendance would be limited to just two guests per senior.
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But earlier in the day, graduation plans apparently had been finalized, only the students had not been told that graduation would proceed as usual on a Sunday, this year on June 23.
"It has been resolved for awhile," Superintendent Joel Klein said as he and other administrators watched the protest outside the district administration building before an East Ramapo School Board meeting. "We're trying to do the right thing."
Calling the changes rumors, Klein later clarified that the plans for graduation had only been discussed Tuesday. In the past, he said, the board had discussed changes to graduation, because it costs the district an estimated $30,000, which includes double pay for staff who have to work on a Sunday. The school district has a growing midyear budget deficit that was last estimated at $8 million in January.
One change that will occur this year is a change in venue. Instead of graduation taking place outdoors at the district's two high schools, Ramapo and Spring Valley, it will take place this year at Torne Valley, a venue donated by the Town of Ramapo. Klein did not elaborate on how the change might save the district money.
Students who protested also indicated a desire to keep graduation at their own school.
As Klein talked to reporters about the resolution, students continued their rally on the sidewalk. Parent America Livent said to Klein: "I don't understand the miscommunication. It's very disheartening. There's no communication between the district and the parents and the school."
Earlier, Spring Valley student and salutatorian Olivia Castor said she saw a memo regarding the proposed change to a Monday commencement. Others said that the changes were announced at a senior assembly.
Castor said the proposal upset students, some of whom are first-generation high school graduates. She said they were concerned that their families would not be able to attend because they work on Mondays and because the seating would be limited.
"I'm going to make a speech, and my father, my sister, my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents want to see me," Castor said.
The students rallied until the school board meeting began just after 6:30 p.m. When Klein announced the issue of graduation had been resolved, he got scattered applause from the packed board room.
While the school board was in executive session, the students took to the microphone and called to order their own meeting. Many said they were still unhappy with the graduation plans, though it was back on a Sunday, including moving the venue.
"I want to graduate from my school because that's where I've been sitting for four years," Castor said.