Saturday, July 2, 2022

Community reacts to York County Schools’ graduation plans

Nominate local York County high school kids for scholarships today. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of York High School Twitter)
The York County School Division’s plans to hold graduation at Langley Speedway has received mixed reactions. (WYDaily/WYDaily file)

YORK COUNTY — The community had mixed reactions after York County School Division (YCSD) announced that high schoolers will be graduating at a race track.

In an April 16 news release, YCSD announced that this year’s commencement ceremonies will take place at Larry King Law’s Langley Speedway, 3165 N Armistead Ave, on June 14 and 15.

With the capacity of indoor venues limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, the division chose to hold the graduations at an outdoor location that could accommodate the maximum number of guests allowed due to the restrictions. 

The division stated that its decision was based on a number of factors, including having the ceremonies take place on or before June 18, and to take place outdoors

The decision to hold the graduation ceremonies at Langley Speedway was met with strong reactions from the community. 

While some believed that the venue was a strange location for the ceremonies, others defended the division’s choice.

RELATED STORY: York County School Division announces Class of 2021 graduation schedule

Sylvia Mendez, a former YCSD educator and also the mother of two York High School graduates, provided her perspective to WYDaily. 

“Last year as my daughter was getting ready for prom, graduation, and college. All that vanished in March 2020,” she said. “Yet all students managed to get through it with flying colors. We didn’t know if a graduation was happening and when it happened students had to wait in their car for their name to be called.”

Meanwhile, Scot McKittrick, a parent of a YCSD graduate, raised some concerns about the venue. 

“I don’t like the idea,” he said. “I have not been to that track for a few years, but when i was there it wasn’t very nice, it’s gravel, it’s muddy, it’s run down. It’s a race track. It’s not a place to gather to celebrate finishing high school.” 

McKittrick said that with the track’s close proximity to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, he worries that the ceremony will be interrupted by the noise of jets taking off and landing.

While he said that he understands that the venue must be outdoors and socially distanced, he pointed out that it could be a 40-60 minute drive for some Bruton High School families. 

“Why not the football field at Bruton High School? The football field at William & Mary?” he wondered.

YCSD spokesperson Katherine Goff said that the division considered several outdoor venues, including Bailey Field, which is the home field for Tabb, York and Grafton High Schools. 

Goff said that the schools’ principals evaluated criteria for the 2021 graduation ceremonies that were developed by a committee of parents, students and staff.

It was determined that use of the high schools’ football fields would only allow for two tickets per graduate.

“The ticket limit of other venues including those on YCSD properties did not meet one of the top priorities – to allow as many attendees as possible,” she said.

Ashley Nixon, a former YCSD parent, said that she wishes that more parents had a positive outlook.

“There is no answer that would please everyone,” she said. “None of it is ideal or what we are used to, but complaining does nothing to help the situation.”

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