School district regrets parents' disappointment

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The Lauderdale County School District responded Friday to logistical problems that affected a local graduation service Thursday night.

Heavy showers mid-afternoon Thursday caused a last-minute change in venue for the ceremonies for Northeast Lauderdale High School.

The original plan was to have the graduation on campus at the Northeast stadium, but the district decided to move it indoors to an alternative location, Northcrest Baptist Church, a large church that was still not large enough to accommodate all the people wanting to attend.

"We are sorry that we had this experience for the parents and the grandparents," said Lauderdale County Superintendent Randy Hodges.

The church has a capacity to hold 1100 people, but a number of people who showed up were not able to go inside the main sanctuary where the graduation was being held.

"I feel terrible that people missed their children's graduation ceremony. We did everything possible to accommodate everybody," said the Rev. Wade Phillips, associate pastor.

The overflow crowd was invited to watch the service on a screen inside Northcrest's student center.

Each senior was given eight tickets to distribute among their families.
Each ticket stated that the ticket holder should arrive between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

With 126 graduates, school and church officials say it appeared that most guests were able to get a seat. (126 x 8 = 1,008.)

However, Superintendent Hodges says he's still troubled that this was not the case for everyone.

"Certainly we'll try to make some adjustments, but I do know that if we have to go to Plan B, there's not a facility in Lauderdale County that can accommodate that number of people," said Hodges.

Hodges says the only inside location in the county that can hold a crowd that large is Evangel Temple, which has opened its doors in the past.

"We can't expect Evangel Temple to open up every time we have to go to a Plan B," said Hodges.

In the wake of what happened Thursday, the superintendent says the district is planning for the future.

"Can we do better?" asked Hodges. "Well, one thing we'll do is talk with Evangel Temple."