By Andrew Wroblewski
For the first time in roughly 15 years, Half Hollow Hills School District has scheduled the proms and graduation ceremonies of its two high schools for separate days, officials announced Monday at a school board meeting.
The schedule strays from the district’s former policy, which placed the schools’ proms on the same Friday and the graduations on the following Sunday.
With the change, High School East’s Class of 2016 will have its graduation rehearsal and prom on Thursday, June 23, 2016 and its graduation on Friday, June 24, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. High School West’s Class of 2016 will have its graduation rehearsal and prom on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 and its graduation on Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. Both graduations will be held in High School East’s auditorium.
The change, said John O’Farrell, assistant superintendent for secondary education, comes after the district received a “tremendous number of phone calls” inquiring about the district’s decision to stick with its former policy.
“It’s one of those questions that we know comes up every year,” he said. “And we really haven’t had a great answer for it.”
Jill Kaufman, a parent of two High School West graduates, said Monday that she is one of those in favor of the change, but speculated that some students might be against it.
“I’m very happy to hear about the change because that is a very big dilemma for parents, when you have them [students] going out after prom and wanting to stay overnight,” Kaufman, of Dix Hills, said, noting that the old policy gave students a one-day buffer between prom night and graduation. “They’re kind of too young for that and, you never know, good kids do stupid things.”
O’Farrell said the district responded to concerns by distributing an online survey to around 800 families with rising seniors in the district. Roughly 500 responses were filed, with 300 in favor of a change and 200 opposed to it, he said.
The close margin, he speculated, could have been due to the district’s phrasing in an example featured on the survey, which proposed that the district schedule both schools’ proms on the same night and two graduations on separate, following days. O’Farrell said this may have seemed unfair to some survey-takers as one of the two schools would have had a one-day break between prom and graduation.
O’Farrell also acknowledged that the scheduling change could cause conflicts with the district’s middle schools’ moving-up ceremonies. He said that the district is aware of such conflicts and will try to schedule accordingly.
He also acknowledged that scheduling the two high schools’ graduation rehearsals and proms for the same days could cause headaches for students as they ready for prom. But O’Farrell promised the graduation rehearsals would be scheduled for the early morning so students have time to prepare for prom.
Superintendent of Schools Kelly Fallon said Monday that the change brings Half Hollow Hills in line with similar policies of many school districts across Long Island. For example, the Sachem School District, which also has two high schools, will host its 2016 commencement ceremonies on separate days. There are also districts on Long Island that schedule prom for the night before graduation.
Half Hollow Hills officials made the change to the district’s online calendar Tuesday morning.