As the new Tewksbury High School was being planned and constructed, one of the things school department officials were looking forward to was having a gymnasium large enough to host a graduation ceremony.
However, some members of the TMHS Class of 2013 say the new gym isn't big enough and they would like to see the June 7 ceremony moved outdoors, to Doucette Field.
Earlier this month, seniors John Froio, Christian Taylor and a handful of other students attended a Tewksbury School Committee meeting to share their concerns and a petition signed by around 200 students. Froio said he had briefed Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor and Principal Brenda Regan in advance of the meeting.
"Our biggest concern was about (a lack of) seating in the gym," said Froio. "We'd heard initially that there would be only five tickets given per student. I know personally there are 11 people that are going to want to come."
Froio said he and other students were later told the number of tickets might be as high as eight per student, but he said even that number is insufficient for many families.
Taylor and Froio spoke during the public comment portion of the School Committee meeting, so there wasn't much in the way of give and take with committee members. However, the issue has been placed on the agenda for the March 13 School Committee meeting.
"The committee has asked me to get together some more specifics on seating," said O'Connor. "We'll do a presentation at that time."
Last year, seating capacity wasn't an issue at all, as the ceremony was held at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell. In 2011, the ceremony was held in the UMass-Lowell Gym. O'Connor said those venues weren't considered for 2013.
"We're not going with ULowell because of costs and the fact that we now have a brand new gym that we feel is large enough to accommodate graduation and accommodate the needs of families for tickets," said O'Connor.
Froio said moving the graduation to an outdoor venue like Doucette Field would ensure sufficient seating. And in the case of a weather forecast of rain, the gymnasium would still be available as a Plan B.
O'Connor applauded the efforts of Froio, Taylor and the other students but said that in all likelihood, school officials would stick with the gymnasium as the venue.