Monday graduation dates scheduled for District 303 through 2025
St. Charles Unit District 303 has secured Monday graduation dates for the classes of 2021 to 2025, though the final three years are subject to change based on the venue's availability.
The school board voted 4-2 last week to approve a contract with Northern Illinois University for use of its Convocation Center, where graduation ceremonies for St. Charles North and East high schools have been held since 2017.
The district's existing deal with NIU expires this summer, after the Class of 2020 is honored Thursday, May 21.
Weekend ceremonies have been customary for District 303 in the past, making the switch to a weekday controversial among some school board and community members.
But administrators said they didn't have much of a choice, primarily because the district's academic calendar now starts a week earlier than in the past. District 303 booked this year's ceremonies on a Thursday because NIU's Convocation Center was not available the weekend that best aligns with the last day of school.
That problem continues into future years, administrators said. Of the weekday dates available, high school principals and faculty members preferred Mondays.
Under the new contract, graduation dates would be set for May 24, 2021, and May 23, 2022. Looking ahead, ceremonies are tentatively booked for May 22, 2023, May 20, 2024, and May 19, 2025, though they can be rescheduled within a reasonable time frame depending on NIU's availability.
The district will pay $14,000 for each of the first two years of the contract. The cost includes two ceremonies, an event coordinator, event and parking staff, security, equipment and all the rooms within the facility, according to district documents.
Rates increase to $15,500 for 2023 and 2024, and $16,000 for 2025.
Board member Heidi Fairgrieve voted against the new contract, as did Jillian Barker, who has expressed concerns over how a Monday graduation could inconvenience working parents and out-of-town relatives.
Though absent from the meeting, board President Carolyn Waibel also has previously criticized the weekday option, saying she'd rather pay more money for a different venue that has availability on the district's desired weekend.
Administrators said they've tried to find a balance between keeping costs reasonable and ensuring the gap between the last day of school and the graduation date is "as close as possible."