BRENTWOOD -- Liberty Union High School District officials have agreed that they'll be better prepared for troublesome weather during future graduation ceremonies.
The informal discussion at this week's board meeting was prompted by soaring temperatures earlier this month that overcame 25 people attending Heritage and Freedom high schools' commencement exercises, a dozen of whom were taken by ambulance to local hospitals.
"We do need to pay a little more attention to the weather forecasts -- that's sort of the bottom line," Superintendent Eric Volta said.
Trustees didn't agree to make any specific changes at this point, however, because whatever measures they take will depend on what Mother Nature dishes out, he said.
Wind buffeted graduates at last year's ceremonies, Volta noted, sending mortarboards flying and prompting administrators to weigh down the stacks of diploma jackets onstage with water bottles.
The year before that it rained throughout the events, thoroughly soaking seniors (with the exception of one boy who wore a duck hunting outfit under his gown) and turning beaming faces into miserable-looking ones, Volta said.
Aware of the weather forecasts, district officials had considered postponing the ceremonies for a few hours in hopes that they could beat the rain, but decided against it because they feared a delay would interfere with students' family celebrations, he said.
Graduation dates are decided well in advance, Volta said, and last-minute changes could upset out-of-town visitors' travel plans.
"There was no strong opinion that we should change the days," he said of trustees' comments at the board meeting.
What's more, if the district were to make the 9:30 a.m. start time of Heritage and Freedom high schools' commencements any earlier, participants then might complain about being cold, Volta said.
Hold them in the evening, and students and their families would have the entire day to party -- and drink, added Trustee Ray Valverde.
Board president Joanne Byer agreed, and acknowledged the same risk exists at Liberty High, which traditionally holds its graduations in the evening.
"There's a lot of time to party," she said.
On the other hand, because Liberty's event started at 6 p.m., participants weren't as adversely affected by the brief heat wave.
That school, as did Heritage High, also countered the uncomfortable temperatures by allowing students to take water bottles with them onto the field.
Freedom High did not, but Volta said that was because Principal Erik Faulkner was prepared for something else: Senior high jinks.
"Every administrator remembers at least one occasion when a student celebrated too much," he said, explaining that some teens might be tempted to fill water bottles with alcohol or use them to turn what should be a dignified occasion into a water fight.
In hindsight, Volta said the teachers sitting at the ends of each row of graduates should have had enough water for them all, but he also emphasized that horseplay isn't acceptable given the amount of money the district spends on graduations.
It costs roughly $6,000 to $7,000 per campus just for the diplomas and their jackets, and maintenance workers receive overtime pay to spruce up the campuses, Volta said. So do the campus supervisors who patrol the premises before the ceremonies to protect the equipment that's been set up on the fields, and the district hires a sound company to provide additional speakers.
"Graduation is a big deal," Volta said. "It's a celebration -- not just for the students but for the families and the community -- and our principals take it very seriously. They want to have the pomp and circumstance."
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.