Chippewa Parents Voice Surprise at Change in Graduation Location
Chippewa Valley Schools Class of 2011 will graduate at the Ultimate Soccer Arena in Pontiac rather than Freedom Hill as originally planned.
The unexpected change in location for the Class of 2011’s graduation ceremony came as a shock to the senior parents and students of Chippewa Valley Schools.
At the start of the 2010-11 academic year, Chippewa Valley and Dakota high school seniors were to graduate on June 12 at Freedom Hill.
However, in October 2010, Freedom Hill informed Chippewa Valley Schools of the possibility that the location might not be available come June.
“We were in panic mode,” said Ed Skiba, the Executive Director of Secondary Education for Chippewa Valley Schools. “It’s really too late to plan a change like that. We usually (book the graduation venue) a year in advance.”
Skiba immediately began to look for an alternate venue, talking to Ford Field, the Silverdome and the Palace.
However, factors such as date, cost and size all played a role in the final selection of the Ultimate Soccer Arenas, 867 South Blvd., in Pontiac.
“I was instructed to keep the date and in order to do that and find a facility that will hold all of us, Ultimate Soccer seemed the best route to go,” Skiba said.
The sudden change in venue came as a surprise to many senior parents, including Macomb Township resident and Dakota mother Mary Ann Forster.
“My daughter graduated from Meadowbrook (in 2001) and it was beautiful,” Forster said. “My son graduated from the Silverdome (in 2005)–I liked the unlimited tickets. I don’t know what to expect at the soccer arena. I’m a little disappointed, but I’m open to change.”
Forster added her concerns for the setup of the event, voicing her fear that she might not be able to see her son walk the stage.
However, Skiba said he kept setup as an important variable when selecting the new location and feels confident it will not be a problem.
“We’ve met with the owner and he’s done about nine graduations,” Skiba said. “They put down special flooring and he brings in a separate sound system. He’s never had any complaints about the sound, and we’ve been assured (space) won’t be a problem and he can accommodate everybody.”
While Freedom Hill can accommodate about 7,000 people, including lawn seats, Ultimate Soccer can only seat 5,100.
Despite the smaller seating capacity, Skiba said he does not believe the number of tickets available to graduating seniors will be affected.
“Yes, it’s different, but it might have some advantages,” Skiba said. “It’s not just a big, sweaty building. It’s a very nice facility. It will be air conditioned and we’ll be indoors so we won’t have to worry about any weather concerns.”
Jeannie Kelly, a Clinton Township resident and mother of a Chippewa Valley senior, said while she was initially disappointed with the change in location, she is happy the district was able to secure a new location on such short notice.
“When I heard where it was, I was kind of disappointed,” Kelly said. “It's a little bit of a drive, but I understand what the school district is doing. I would hate for them to not have anyplace to graduate. I wish it was still at Freedom Hill, but I understand they have to be sure.”
Skiba said he hopes parents and students understand the time constraints Chippewa Valley was given to find a new location and that they are not too disappointed with Ultimate Soccer.
“I hope people appreciate the fact that given the short notice we were able to find a place that will accommodate all of us,” he said. “We’re just grateful for that.”
Both high school ceremonies will be held on June 12, with Dakota at 10 a.m. and Chippewa Valley at 3 p.m.