After three months of discussion, research and community surveys, the Hermiston School Board made its decision Monday night: Hermiston High School’s Class of 2018 will toss their caps at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
The board voted 6-1 to move the ceremony across the river in June 2018, and will revisit local options afterward. Board member Jason Middleton was the lone “no” vote.
“This has been a long process,” said board chair Karen Sherman. “But we know (the decision) is the best we can do for students and families.”
The decision was a contentious one, as many Hermiston residents and even board members raised concerns about moving the ceremony out of the community.
The decision caps a months-long process by district and high school administrators to find a place to house the growing graduating classes, after last year’s record class reduced the number of guest tickets to five. This year, administrators estimated they would only be able to allow four tickets per student. District officials said Monday they also had growing concerns about the safety of the current venue, the Hermiston High School gymnasium, due to the large crowds.
The Toyota Center seats more than 5,000 people, and will eliminate the need for tickets. According to numbers published by the district, holding graduation at the Toyota Center would cost about $6,500, while holding it in the gym would cost about $11,000.
At September’s meeting, the board was about to make a final decision when Middleton made a counter-motion, requesting that more data be collected and the issue be looked at in greater detail. That motion won out, and the district conducted another round of surveys, this time focusing on responses from Hermiston High School seniors and their parents.
Though many comments reflected residents’ hesitation, the majority still appeared to be in favor of the move — at least temporarily.
The most popular option in early surveys, the rodeo arena at Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center was ruled out last month due to what district officials said was a lack of infrastructure and staffing at EOTEC At the time, interim EOTEC manager Nate Rivera said those in charge of the facility would like to be able to host events like graduation in the future, but it was not currently feasible.
The decision to move graduation to Kennewick means the ceremony will likely be held on Thursday, June 7 with a tentative start time of 7 p.m.