DHS eyes SUNY return for graduation

Dunkirk High School looks set to move its graduation ceremonies back to SUNY Fredonia’s Rockefeller Arts Center.

DHS held its ceremonies there prior to the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset in 2020. The graduations were moved to the football field at the high school, at first to enable “social distancing.” Subsequent senior classes simply preferred the site over SUNY Fredonia.

However, according to Secondary School Principal Adam Hernandez, the Class of ’24 seeks a return to SUNY Fredonia. Hernandez spoke at last week’s Dunkirk Board of Education meeting.

“It’s about the same financially,” he said about the costs of holding commencement at DHS versus holding it at SUNY Fredonia. “The real push for this is the students.”

Hernandez said senior class advisors are all advocates of moving it back to SUNY Fredonia. However, he acknowledged, “If this decision is made, we will definitely hear from the ones who don’t want to leave the field.”

Hernandez read off a list of reasons to move the ceremony back to SUNY Fredonia:

— Weather concerns. A couple of the DHS commencements were held in blazing heat. Last year, stormy weather had planners worried right up until the ceremony began, Hernandez said. Fortunately, it didn’t storm during the commencement events.

— Seating and visibility.

— Logistics. “Parking is an issue here,” Hernandez said. He also noted there are few easily accessible bathrooms for spectators at DHS.

— Safety and security. “You throw a lot up in the air when it comes to safety when you’re out in the open,” Hernandez said.

— Professionalism. The wide open space of the football field detracts from that, Hernandez said, stating that a dog got loose at the 2023 ceremony and became a distraction.

— SUNY Fredonia has better technology and equipment for the ceremony.

Hernandez said on-campus graduations are “an invaluable experience. At the same time, it’s a lot up in the air on an already stressful day for a lot of our students and families. Anything we can control helps us to provide a better experience for the kids.”

He said there were problems in the stands at the 2023 ceremony. “That becomes the story instead of kids graduating.”

Board of Education Kenneth Kozlowski said, “I’m fine with whatever the kids want.”

It’s not clear yet how many tickets will be available for this year’s commencement, but Hernandez said they will be limited somehow.

“There will be for sure some negativity associated” with the move, he said.


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