Pinellas County to hold graduations indoors - WFLA News Channel 8

Pinellas County to hold graduations indoors

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ST PETERSBURG, FL -

School officials in Pinellas County are about to buck a longstanding tradition. Beginning with the Class of 2014, most high school graduation ceremonies will move indoors to avoid rain and excessive heat.

Superintendent Mike Grego announced the changes Tuesday at a school board workshop.

For St. Petersburg High School, where graduation has been on the football field for 88 years, it will be a difficult transition.

But principal Al Bennett says weather has affected graduation the past three years. In 2011, the rain started just as students' names were called and everyone had to flee the football field. In 2012, "we had people sick from the heat," Bennett said. Then, last year, they barely got the ceremony in before the rain came.

"I could see everyone there was uncomfortable - it was 90 degrees by the time it was over" he told the Tampa Bay Times 

"I'm a graduate of the school and I said I was never going to move it, but when I got off the field and saw everyone sweating, I said, 'Listen, I'm going to look at a spot at the Trop, because it's just so uncomfortable out here." 

Last year, about half the county's high schools planning outdoor ceremonies had to relocate or reschedule.

Lakewood principal Bob Vicari says they made the decision after a rainout in June.

"We decided this year we weren't going to take a chance," he said. "The school year used to end in May. Now it goes into June. You're in rain season, hurricane season. Those two, three weeks really make a difference."

Related Content: Tropical Storm Andrea affects Bay area graduations

This year, Tropicana Field will host 10 graduation ceremonies: St. Petersburg, Lakewood, Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, Largo, Northeast, Osceola, Pinellas Park and Seminole high schools. Countryside, Palm Harbor and East Lake will have graduation at the Sun Dome in Tampa.

Clearwater and Tarpon Springs high schools are holding out for outdoor ceremonies.

Tradition is keeping Tarpon Springs principal Clint Herbic from moving away from the football field.

It's "part of the fabric of Tarpon High," he said, adding that three and four generations of graduates stay on the field taking pictures hours after the ceremony. "You can't do that at the Trop and other places. Eventually, they'll kick you out. They'll tell you to go home."

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