Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School graduates have a timehonored tradition of turning their tassels on the school football field.
But for the first time in more than 40 years, a flurry of new construction on campus is forcing the school to relocate its June graduation ceremony to another field — Scottsdale Stadium.
And for the second consecutive year, construction also prompted Arcadia High School to hold its graduation ceremonies at Phoenix’s Dodge Theatre.
Four of the district’s five high schools and Sierra Vista Academy, an alternative school for sixth through 12th graders, are in the middle of work, mostly for new buildings, said David Peterson, Scottsdale Unified School District chief of finance and facilities.
All the construction will cost $217 million and be completed in August 2009.
“It’s a mess. It’s just a nightmare logistically,” said Lori Jacques, administrative secretary to Saguaro’s principal. “And it’s ugly with all the construction equipment. It’s not something I want people to see.”
The school will probably hold graduation off campus for the next three years, she said.
Some people are sad the school is breaking tradition, especially in the same year Saguaro is celebrating its 40th anniversary, Jacques said. But most people seem happy with Scottsdale Stadium.
Construction wouldn’t prevent any of the schools from hosting graduations, Peterson said. Saguaro and Arcadia are choosing to move anyway, he said.
If graduation were at Saguaro, guests would be most likely to use the south parking lot near the football stadium. But that lot has just 150 spaces this year, Jacques said. The school normally hosts 3,000 guests for graduation.
There is another parking lot farther away from the stadium, but the school could face liability issues if people were tempted to cut across construction areas, she said.
“It was just better for safety reasons,” she said.
Saguaro has been researching places to hold the ceremony since August, checking out everything from churches to art galleries to Glendale Arena.
“We even checked airport hangars to see if we could rent an airport hangar,” she said. “They wouldn’t allow it.”
In most cases, the spaces either weren’t big enough, were charging too much or were booked.
In some instances, the school was trying to be sensitive to social differences. The Phoenix Assembly of God had a beautiful location that would have accommodated graduation guests, but the school wouldn’t have been able to cover up a giant floor-to-ceiling stained glass window of Jesus. The school didn’t want to offend anyone of different religions, Jacques said.
Saguaro also looked at renting the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, which would have cost the school $14,000, Jacques said. But that didn’t work because Arcadia already had it booked.
This is the second year Arcadia has held its graduation at the theater instead of its own football field, said Dale Link, assistant principal
“I think it was a really good experience,” Link said. “It was air conditioned.”
Since construction projects at Arcadia are scheduled to end in summer 2008, graduation probably won’t be back at the school until 2009, Link said. However, Arcadia will evaluate the situation next year before making a decision, he said.
Both Arcadia and Saguaro plan to bus graduating seniors from the schools to the graduation locations and then to school-sponsored post graduation parties. Guests will drive separately to the ceremonies.
Sierra Vista Academy will also have its graduation ceremony off-site. However, that’s normal for Sierra Vista, Peterson said.
“They want to make it more special than a normal graduation ceremony,” he said. “Some of these kids have had some tough circumstances.”
Change in venues Saguaro High School Construction status: A new classroom and administration building are under way and demolition on some of the old buildings is scheduled to start this summer, said David Peterson, Scottsdale Unified School District chief of finances and facilities. Graduation Location: Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 East Osborn Road. Graduation time: 8 p.m. June 6.
Arcadia High School Construction status: This year’s major project is the school’s new circle building, which is more than two months ahead of schedule, Peterson said. The school’s main gym will come down next year, which will move some of the major sports off campus. Graduation Location: Dodge Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix. Graduation time: 8 p.m. June 6.
Sierra Vista Academy Construction status: Work on the school’s new building will be done in May, Peterson said. Graduation location: Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, 7700 E. McCormick Parkway, Scottsdale. Graduation time: 5 p.m. June 6.
• All other Scottsdale district schools will have graduation ceremonies on their own campuses. All graduation ceremonies will start at 8 p.m. on June 6 except at Sierra Vista.
Source: Scottsdale Unified School District