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Farmington to survey students, parents on graduation venue, tickets

Farmington parents and students may soon be able to share feedback about high school graduation via an online survey.

Farmington District Finance Director Jane Houska led a Farmington School Board discussion about graduation fees during a board work session Monday, Sept. 11.

The school board agreed to conduct an informal, online survey that will ask four or five questions to parents and students regarding opinions on graduation. They will be asked to weigh in on preferences for an onsite or offsite graduation venue. The informal survey may also ask about number of graduation tickets and cost of graduation or the cost to support the commencement ceremony.

The current graduation fee is $45 to cover ceremony expenses.

"I really think the bottom line is when we have it outdoors, we do lose money," Houska said, adding "The purpose of this is not that we make money but that we are covering our costs."

Board discussion centered on whether to offer viewing of the graduation with the district's new live-streaming equipment. This would enable more people to watch the graduation ceremony from other places within the high school due to limitations of school gym space.

"My personal opinion is that I would want to see it," board member Steve Corraro said, "and even though I know there is livestreaming, it would be my personal preference to see it live and I think people would be upset as well if you had to reduce the tickets you get in the auditorium to actually see it."

The senior class at Farmington High School graduating next spring will be about 455 students. The junior class now sits at 544 students. That means in less than two years, there may be a need to reduce the number of graduation tickets for families, according to Jason Berg, principal at Farmington High School.

Board member Jacilyn Doyle said she spoke with many who attended the last outdoor graduation in June. Many reported they could not see the ceremony well, but they could hear it. "They could not see who was walking across the stage," Doyle said. "I think streaming is a good option and for a lot of people sitting in the auditorium might be a better seat than if they were outside on the field."

Taylor Dubbels, a student school board member, asked fellow classmates via Twitter about the graduation fees. Many students said "graduation fees" makes them feel they are being charged to graduate.

Dubbels said it may be good to change the wording from "graduation fee" to a ceremony fee.

Board Chair Jake Cordes agreed, saying that name is calling the fee what it really is, paying for the graduation ceremony.

"Many said they have worked for 13 years to get their diploma and they don't want to feel they have to pay for it," Dubbels said. Many students said they were not against paying for the ceremony.

Berg said he communicates with parents about what the graduation fee covers.

If the district looks to host graduation at an offsite venue, it may cost $10,000 to $13,000. That amount does not include extra fees associated with student transportation and perhaps equipment rental.

"My personal commitment is to keep it onsite, and do what we have to do because I think of the value that brings to students having it on campus," board member Kristen Goodreau said.

Barb Duffrin, Farmington educational programs director, will create a graduation survey and email it to parents and students to ask for feedback about venue, cost and number of graduation tickets.