Florence School District 1 will ticket graduation this year

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Florence School District 1 will ticket graduations beginning in May 2018. The change was brought to the school board at the Sept. 14 meeting, board members said the decision was out of their hands and that it was made by the Florence Civic Center. General Manager of the Florence Civic Center, Paul Beard, said it was a matter of safety.

“The decision was made, our board unanimously approved to cap it at 4,000 seats that way we can manage it safely,” said Beard. “God forbid should an emergency arrive and we have to evacuate the building, we can do that properly and take care of everyone.”

This change would give seniors graduating from West Florence High School and South Florence High School 10 tickets per graduating student and 13 tickets for students graduating from Wilson High School. West Florence seniors Emilee Cox and Elizabeth Messier said they found out about the change from friends.

“My main problem is the school hasn’t directly addressed the students about it and we’re the people who it’s going to effect,” said Messier.

Cox said ticketing graduation would mean a large part of her family wouldn’t be able to attend her ceremony. She started a petition against the tickets on Sept. 18, and in less than a week, it has nearly 1,000 signatures.

“Graduation is something that means something to someone,” said Cox. “There are so many people in my life that have watched me grow up and I have to tell them that they’re not going to be able to watch me walk across that stage and complete one of the biggest milestones in my life.”

Beard said the true capacity of a graduation type of event at The Florence Civic Center is 4,000 people. He said at graduation in May, Fire Marshals told him The Civic Center was at capacity. He said he almost had to close the doors on parents, but instead, had them sit behind the graduation curtain. However, it prevented those parents from seeing the entire ceremony. Beard said he didn’t want that to happen again so ticketing would be the best solution.

“We obviously don’t ever want to see the day that we tell someone’s parents ‘sorry we’re full, you can’t come in,’” said Beard.

West Florence senior Will Venable said he was surprised to hear about the change, but it doesn’t bother him.

“I just think they’re really taking the safety into consideration and they should because it’s a dangerous world we live in,” the 17-year-old said.

Cox said graduating high school is a big moment in her life and she wants everyone who helped her accomplish her goals to have a seat in the audience.

“We’ve waited our whole entire lives for this moment and we want our families to be by our sides when we walk across that stage,” said Cox. “We want to celebrate with them and with a ticket limit they can’t be there.”

Beard also said he had received complaints about traffic congestion from local businesses and, in the future, would like to see graduations done on separate days to help the flow of traffic and allow seniors to take pictures and have family time inside of The Florence Civic Center after the ceremony.