WALLINGFORD — High school graduation is set for a Wednesday this year, and Project Graduation coordinators say that might affect how many people volunteer for the all-night drug- and alcohol-free party.
Project Graduation is held annually on graduation night at the Parks and Recreation building on Fairfield Boulevard.
On Monday, the Board of Education set June 12 as the date of graduation and the last day of school.
Board member Ray Ross questioned whether holding commencement midweek would inconvenience parents and other volunteers who supervise Project Graduation. Ross said they would be up late into the night and have to work the next day.
Board member Karen Hlavac said that many of the vendor contracts have been signed and it’s too late to rearrange plans.
A bill was introduced in the state legislature this year that would have allowed school boards to set a firm graduation date at the start of the school year, regardless of snow days that push back the last day of school.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Brooklyn, was referred to the Joint Committee on Education but hasn’t passed out of committee.
Graduation took place on a Friday for the last four consecutive years. For the six years between 2009 and 2014, graduation was held on a Friday just twice, but never on a Wednesday.
Craig Turner, Youth & Social Services director, agreed the Wednesday graduation presents challenges.
The event runs 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. It used to run until 4 a.m., but Turner said that they began having a hard time finding volunteers for the last two hours.
“Beyond 2 a.m., it becomes too thin a volunteer crew,” he said.
He said that from 8-11 p.m., the event is fully staffed most every year. The 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. slot has fewer volunteers, but by 1 a.m., fewer people are needed because students are in the gym for the wrap-up event.
Turner said organizers could shut down some activities at midnight or 1 a.m. if the event doesn’t have enough volunteers.
Town Councilor Jason Zandri, who’s been involved with Project Graduation for many years, said Tuesday that four to six police officers also work the event over the course of the evening, either inside or patrolling the area.
Zandri said that an ideal ratio of students to volunteers is three or four to one, and that between 50 and 100 volunteers are needed to be successful.
Holding the event midweek “creates a lot of problems for many volunteers,” he said. “A lot of people who would normally do it have to beg off work the next day.”
He said that the organizing committee knew for some time that graduation might be midweek this year. The last day of school was set in the school calendar for Monday, June 10, and there were only two snow days this school year.
“Normally they do not extend the year to make graduation a Friday evening,” he said.
To volunteer for Project Graduation, contact Youth & Social Services at 203-294-2175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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