NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High School Class of 2015 will graduate on its home turf.
Graduation was held at the Palace Theater in Waterbury the last two years due to the ongoing construction at Naugatuck High. In December, the Board of Education voted to hold graduation this year at the theater again. However, the board reversed that decision at its Feb. 19 meeting and voted to hold graduation at its traditional location — the football field.
The reversal came about after high school students voiced their support for holding graduation on the new turf field.
Senior Kassandra Fruin, a student representative on the board, told the board her classmates were presented with a list of pros and cons about holding graduation at the school and the Palace. The students were then asked which site they preferred. Out of the 256 responses she received, Fruin said, 228 were in favor of holding graduation at the high school and 28 favored the Palace.
Fruin said she asked Naugatuck High School Principal Jan Saam to email parents of seniors the same questions. Out of the 94 parents who responded 70 voted for high school, 24 voted for the Palace, she said.
Naugatuck High School senior Sarah Hanks wrote a letter to thank the board for listening to students’ concerns.
“Since the last meeting a lot of our classmates have come forward and spoke passionately about where they want our graduation to be. I’m extremely grateful to the Board of Education for valuing our opinions. I understand we do not have the final say in where graduation will be held, but with the outcome of our survey I hope you take our votes into consideration,” Hanks wrote.
Saam, who favors graduation at the Palace, said while she has her opinion, the decision is not about her.
“It’s not my graduation, it’s the kids’ graduation,” she said. “I told them this is one of the most important days of your life and it’s my job to make it the most memorable and pleasant experience possible for you and your families.”
Fruin said it’s important to her that the board listened to the students.
“This goes to show that they really cared about what we had to say,” she said.
School officials had expressed concerns about holding graduation at the school since it is still a construction site and parking is sparse. They were also worried about potential damage to the new artificial turf field.
Officials looked into buying a cover for the field, which Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said is estimated to cost $60,000.
Locke said the school building committee was told by the company that installed the turf that if the turf undergoes annual maintenance after each graduation it would be safe to hold the ceremony there.
The annual maintenance would cost between $6,000 and $7,000, Locke said.
“It seems like information keeps evolving here. When I last presented to you there were concerns about parking and construction and a cost of approximately $60,000 to purchase floor covering. Since that time the building committee has uncovered that we could probably have graduation at the high school this year for the cost of $6,000, if we groom the field,” Locke told the board.
Locke said one of the stipulations to using the turf field is that the students can’t wear high heels.
Mayor Robert Mezzo, who supports holding graduation at the school, felt if the field is maintained the graduation ceremony won’t be an issue.
“That field is sturdy and built well. I don’t believe the warranty covers it, but there are other communities that have this. If it’s managed properly I don’t foresee it being an issue,” Mezzo said.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.