A strange day for graduation on Whidbey Island | Editorial

Coupeville High School’s Class of 2012 graduated Friday night; South Whidbey’s Class of 2012 graduates today at noon. Oak Harbor High School’s Class of 2012 graduates Monday night, June 11.

Which of these dates makes the most sense? Coupeville’s graduation time is good. A Friday night gives friends and relatives time to drive a long distance and still make it; many will probably make a weekend of it, helping fill area inns and frequenting restaurants and shops.

South Whidbey’s graduation today has similar advantages. The noon starting time gives off-island visitors time to take an early ferry before the Saturday line in Mukilteo gets too crowded. Visitors to the South Whidbey graduation can arrive early and stay late, maybe even spend the night to enjoy the great variety of things to do on the island before heading home on Sunday.

And then there’s Oak Harbor, which has the strange tradition of having its high school seniors graduate on a Monday night. Working people from off-island have trouble getting here in time, and then there’s the long drive back home knowing they have to go to work early Tuesday morning. No time to dawdle or spend money locally.

A more recent tradition, beginning with the advent of the new high school stadium earlier this decade, is that graduation takes place outdoors, in the evening, when the sun goes down, the wind whips up, graduation gowns start swirling and mortar boards go flying. It makes for amusing TV viewing on OHHS Channel 21, but it also makes for a miserable two hours for those sitting in the stadium bleachers.

The Monday night graduation does little for the economy. There’s no weekend time off, so few people spend the night, shop and eat in local restaurants or enjoy our outdoor wonders. Many arrive at dusk and leave in the dark, never glimpsing a full daylight view of Whidbey Island, let alone enjoying its wonders.

Considering all the factors, we give the nod to Coupeville for the best graduation time. Second place goes to South Whidbey, which provides a somewhat shorter weekend. To its credit, it experimented with outdoor graduations for several years, but after a couple of downpours they learned their lesson and went back indoors.

Finishing a distant third is Oak Harbor. Graduate outdoors on a chilly Monday night in June? It’s a strange idea, and whatever its origins, it’s time to move it to Friday night or early Saturday afternoon.


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