BHS seniors bumped to a Tuesday commencement

Conflicting booked events at War Memorial Stadium and a different school schedule are being blamed

This year’s Baldwin High commencement will be held on a Tuesday, May 22, due to scheduling conflicts at the War Memorial Complex. It was originally set for Friday, May 25. This photo was taken at the 2015 commencement. • The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Baldwin High School will graduate its Class of 2018 on a Tuesday, instead of its long-held Friday commencement day at War Memorial Stadium.

Conflicting booked events at the War Memorial Complex during Memorial Day weekend and a different school schedule from last year are being blamed.

Originally set for Friday, May 25, Baldwin High’s commencement has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. May 22 at its traditional location, War Memorial Stadium.

“The (new) date is not preferable and hopefully this will be the only time we must do this. It initially created a lot of controversy and extra work,” said Baldwin High Principal Catherine Kilborn in an email. “We had to work through this.”

The “work” included obtaining a waiver for a new graduation date; this meant getting a majority of the faculty to agree on a date, writing a waiver request and having it approved by the Board of Education, which occurred in December.

Baldwin High graduates will receive their diplomas this May on a Tuesday, instead of the traditional Friday. The ceremony was originally planned for Friday, May 25, about a week later than last year’s commencement held on Friday, May 19, which is shown here. • The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

State Education Department and Maui County officials said the conflict was discovered around October.

The school considered other options for a Friday graduation, but issues with Advanced Placement testing, having enough instructional time and a lack of affordable and large-enough venues all deterred having commencement on a Friday, Kilborn said. (Even the Baldwin Auditorium was considered but it was deemed too small.)

Typically, high schools try to avoid the Memorial Day weekend, holding commencement the weekend before or after, she said.

Kilborn said that the parents who have spoken to her seem to understand the circumstances, though they may share the school administration’s disappointment. She lauded the parents “positive” approach.

“I haven’t received complaints, and I think this is because there is a general understanding that our hands were somewhat tied and that our intention/highest value is to include all families and friends. We really could only do this at the stadium,” she said.

Still, the selection of the Tuesday date and the time it took to get the date approved caught some parents off-guard and slowed plans for Baldwin’s Project Graduation festivities, where many graduates spend the night and early morning following graduation with their classmates for activities, food and fellowship.

“I was initially upset. Graduation is always a time of tradition,” said parent Nadine Gomes, who said Baldwin always has had its graduation on a Friday. “You are thinking, ‘They are going to find another Friday.’ ”

“(Then) my daughter came home and said it’s on a Tuesday,” Gomes recalled. “I said, ‘What?’ ”

In the time since, Gomes has come to terms with the change. In fact, Tuesday is better for her husband’s work schedule.

She did wonder, though, if the whole situation could have been prevented and if schools had priority-use of the complex for graduation.

“I feel bad for the families who bring people from off-island. The more important people in our lives are in Maui, so we’re OK with it,” Gomes added.

Geri Kimoto, a parent and chairwoman of the BHS Project Graduation 2018 Committee, said “initially it was really hard for us to start planning.” The committee had to wait until the Board of Education approved the graduation in December to begin booking venues for the all-night alcohol-free party.

She said the committee began planning for Project Graduation in June with the May 25 date in mind. The group first focused on raising money, with its largest fundraiser at the Maui Fair in October, but then the group was left in limbo waiting for the approval of the new date to plan the festivities.

A silver lining is that she can have her pick of venues for the graduates to hold their party, especially compared to the Memorial Day weekend, Kimoto said. The bad side is that it is difficult finding volunteers to chaperone the all-night event.

“How do you ask someone to stay up all night with our kids and not go to work the next day?” Kimoto said, adding that she still could use some volunteers.

Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone said the county became aware of the conflicts around October, but there already were three major events permitted at the complex. The Sakamoto Invitational Swim Meet is scheduled at the pool for May 26 and 27; the All Pono Baseball Tournament, taking up the surrounding ballfields, is from May 25 to 28; and the Barrio Fiesta basketball tournament reserved the gym from May 25 to 27.

The issue with holding graduation at the stadium with the other events at the complex surfaced years ago, Antone said. Parking was among the major issues.

“Nobody wanted to go through that again,” he said.

Antone said the county offered other dates, including Fridays, to Baldwin for graduation.

Maui High was supposed to have its commencement on Saturday, May 26, following Baldwin’s, as is the tradition. It chose to move its graduation to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at the stadium.

Maui High Principal Jamie Yap said having graduation on Saturday was most preferable for his school because staff and teachers, who help with the setup, all work weekdays.

“To do it in the school day would have been harder for us,” Yap said.

He noted that schools usually put in their permits for graduation dates at the beginning of the school year in August, and the timing of the 2018 graduation dates was no different. However, the public school calendar this year is different from years’ past, an Education Department spokeswoman said.

Baldwin’s commencement in 2017 was on May 19, followed the next day by Maui High’s.

The county denied the initial permit applications for use of War Memorial Stadium, saying other organizations had booked the complex, Yap said. The “county has been supportive” of the schools, he added.

Maui High parent Jovina Kaeo heading up the Project Graduation festivities at her school said she, too, couldn’t plan for the celebration until December, when the new date graduation date officially was approved.

She still is seeking donations for the 20 students who signed up for the program. Registration is closed.

A fundraiser golf tournament is scheduled for 6 a.m. April 28 at the Kahili Golf Course in Waikapu. Those wanting to make a donation or information about the tournament can email Kaeo at mauihighprojectgrad2018.com. Kaeo’s child is a freshman, but she is volunteering to head up the festivities this year.

Back at Baldwin, Kimoto said there’s more than 200 students registered to attend Project Graduation. Registration remains open.

There are about 330 seniors at the school.

Baldwin’s event also could use more donations and is still short of its $70,000 goal. Information can be found at www.hpbaldwinprojectgrad.com.

King Kekaulike High School’s graduation, which usually kicks off the public high school graduation season, still is set for Thursday, May 24 – on its regularly scheduled date – at the school stadium. The only change is that the lei exchange will be at the center of campus instead of on the new turf football field, said Principal Mark Elliott.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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