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August 2019
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Saturday’s PHS graduation rain protocol discussed


Graduation program, interview with Valedictorian and Salutatorian, senior salutes, and a class photo with a list of graduates, all in a pull-out section, pages 13-16A


With a sketchy forecast for graduation this Saturday at 9 a.m., Pickens High School Principal Chris Wallace said at this point “all we can do is pray for no rain.” 

The school system has been working at a fever pitch to have Dragon Stadium’s $1.7 million SPLOST-funded renovations - which include a new artificial turf, video scoreboard, new track, and upgraded lights - completed in time for the commencement ceremony. 

“People have been working so hard to get this planned and done, and it’s going to be a major disappointment if we’re not able to hold graduation there, but we’re going to pray things work out in our favor,” Wallace said. 

Of course, the school has a back-up plans if the weather doesn’t go their way. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held in the gymnasium (located next to the performing arts center). Each student will receive six tickets for guests, given out earlier in the week.

“If it’s in the stadium the number of guests is unlimited, but in the gym six guest per student is all we can fit,” Wallace said. 

If the ceremony is held in the gym, family and friends of graduates who do not have a ticket can view graduation in the performing arts center, where it will be streamed on a large screen.

“We always have the performing arts center open for elderly or handicapped, or for people who don’t want to sit out in the heat, and there is an 800-person capacity there for overflow,” Wallace said. 

There are also 300 seats available in the old performing arts center that can be used, but a video stream will likely not be played in that theater. Between those three spaces, capacity nears that of the stadium.

The PHS principal said deciding when to make the call to move the ceremony inside is a tough one.

“We don’t want to wait too long – the absolute last thing we want to do is start in one place and move somewhere else, which would be a disaster,” he said, “but I don’t have a lot of faith in forecasts and we don’t want to jump the gun and call it on Friday at noon, then end up with beautiful weather Saturday morning and everyone is crammed in the gym.”

The call to move into the gym could be made as late as the morning of graduation. Wallace said graduates will already be in the gymnasium for staging, and guests would report there instead of the stadium in the event of rain.

“We most definitely want to be respectful of people’s plans,” he said. “If it’s 100 percent chance of rain the night before we might start making provisions, but we will use social media and the robo call system to help us alert family and friends when the call is made. It’s so tough when rain is in the forecast, but all we can do is hope and pray it clears up.”  

Graduation begins at 9 a.m. School bus shuttles will be available at Pickens County Middle School and Chattahoochee Technical College. There will be four full-size buses and one special needs bus at each location. Buses will arrive at locations at 7:40 a.m. and will pull out at 8:10 a.m. If the first bus fills it will leave before the 8:10 a.m. departure time. The buses will not return for second loads. People attending should prepare for heavy traffic into PHS Saturday morning. Although official records aren’t kept, discussion with school officials showed that PHS last had a graduation rained out in 2002.