Site of NHS Class of 2013 graduation to be determined

Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam unveils her idea of having the graduating class of 2013 have their graduation ceremony at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. - LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — For rising seniors at Naugatuck High School, the biggest show they see at the Palace Theater next year may be their own graduation.

Due to renovations to the high school, the field will not be able to host the school’s graduation ceremony. There will also not be enough parking for everyone who wants to attend the ceremony.

Naugatuck High Principal Janice Saam addressed these concerns before the Board of Education at its regular meeting June 14.

She proposed moving the graduation ceremony to the Palace Theater in Waterbury.

“The cost for us to graduate at the Palace is $10,000 and that’s all inclusive; that’s fire, police, all we do is show up,” Saam said.

She said holding graduation at the Palace Theater would increase the current cost of the graduation ceremony by $5,200.

With any other venue the borough chooses, she said, it would have to provide its own security. In the event of inclement weather, she added, the graduation ceremony could go on as planned since it would be indoors.

The Palace Theater allows the district to book a two-week window to hold its graduation. The theater does three graduations a day, Saam explained, so it is likely that the school will be able to get the date that it wants. According to the theater’s website, the seating capacity is 2,565.

“We would have the entire Place Theater, both the balcony and the lower level, so the seating would accommodate those who want to attend the graduation,” Saam said.

However, the theater does not waive the parking garage fee, and families would be responsible for paying for their own parking.

Mayor Robert Mezzo wondered if there was a way to hold the graduation outdoors, such as on the Green or at City Hill Middle School.

“This class isn’t even going to see much of a benefit from the renovation and their going to be asked to graduate in another town,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo felt that the cost of a portable stage and seating would be equivalent to moving the graduation to the theater.

Board member Glen Connan asked if there was a way to poll the students to see if they would rather graduate in Naugatuck or at the Palace Theater.

He felt the students should be allowed to decide since they were going to go through the aggravations of attending a school that is being renovated but not going to reap the benefits of the renovations. He said he would support whatever the students decided.

Saam explained the students were currently taking their finals and there would be no feasible way to poll all of them. If she waited until after the summer break to poll the students, there would be a good chance the Palace Theater would be booked.

“The timing is difficult. The Palace is saying that if we don’t book soon, we won’t get into that window,” Saam said.

School board Chair David Heller was concerned about how the security would work if the school held it at a field outdoors.

He also thought that the students would enjoy the change of venue and would find it very memorable.

“Regardless of the fact that it’s not on Naugatuck property it would be a pretty cool memory for students,” Heller said.

Saam said whatever the district decided to do it will need to be a two-year plan because the renovations to the high school will continue through 2014.

The board asked Saam to talk to the student leaders to get a feel of their preferences for graduation and to report back to them.

Saam is scheduled to meet with a representative from the Palace Theater on Friday. The board is expected to hear another report from Saam and discuss this issue in the near future. As of press time no decision had been reached.