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All remains dry at South Side High School’s ‘Graduation, Part 2’

South Side High School held its second graduation

South Side High School held its second graduation ceremony for 12 seniors in its Rockville Centre auditorium Thursday evening, June 29, 2017. A sprinkler malfunction at the first commencement on Friday, June 23, caused foul-smelling water to rain on families sitting in one section at Hofstra University. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A dozen South Side High School seniors received a lesson on second chances Thursday, a week after a fire sprinkler malfunction prematurely ended their original graduation ceremony.

Those 12 graduates got to walk the stage and receive diplomas in a special ceremony at the high school Thursday that Rockville Centre district officials had called “Graduation, Part 2.”

Popping open a red and white umbrella as he began the ceremony, South Side principal John Murphy told the class of 2017 that each graduate would receive an umbrella along with this note: “May this be the last time anyone rains on your parade.”

“It is an honor to reopen the commencement exercises of the class of 2017,” Murphy said.

The ceremony was held in the 800-seat auditorium at South Side High School at 5 p.m. It was an abbreviated version of the commencement for those who didn’t get the chance to speak or get their diplomas.

It was nearly a week after a sprinkler malfunction forced the abrupt end of South Side’s graduation ceremony at Hofstra University’s David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex.

Class president Paulina Kenny, who did not make her speech last Friday, told about 400 graduates, family and friends that she appreciated having the chance to address fellow classmates. Her most meaningful experiences in high school, she said, “is when we have all come together — united as a class.”

The students, dressed in blue gowns, beamed as they received their diplomas.

“I think this is a very nice gesture,” said graduate Olivia Yuhas, 17, who received her diploma Thursday. “It was nice of them to think of us.”

Other seniors turned out to support their classmates, applauding as the group entered the auditorium. Two graduates could not make Thursday’s ceremony and Murphy said the district hoped to honor them later.

The ceremony, which included a video retrospective of the class of 2017, ended shortly before 6 p.m.

At last week’s graduation, sprinklers went off in the Hofstra complex exactly one hour into the ceremony. The malfunction caused foul-smelling water to rain on families sitting in one section, forcing wet family members to scramble.

All 254 graduates and their families — about 1,000 people total — evacuated the arena before the graduates at the bottom of the alphabet could cross the stage to receive their diplomas.

In a statement on the Rockville Centre district’s website, Hofstra University officials apologized for the inconvenience to the educators, graduates and families, calling the situation “unfortunately totally unpredictable.”

“The fire alarm was activated by the sprinkler head malfunction, and the burning smell came from water hitting the tops of the lights in the arena,” according to the university’s statement. “Again, on behalf of the university we apologize that the malfunction interrupted the celebration of the South Side High School seniors’ great achievement,” the statement said.

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