Graduation will go on, but it won’t be at The Pit.
Due to structural damage caused by the March 8 flooding, the home side of The Pit’s stadium, and the old gymnasium, has been deemed unsafe, Minden High School Principal Robin Tucker said.
“The old gym flooded from the bottom and rain came in from the top,” she said, adding there was extensive mold inside. “They pumped eight feet of water out of the old gym, and that is where football has their weight room, their locker room; everything for football is in that old gym. Plus, it’s used for PE classes in addition to our current gym.”
Tucker says the damage to the home side of the stadium came from the creek that runs under it, washing out the foundation and allowing the stadium itself to shift three feet. The stadium, old gym and the parking area around it is now off limits to everyone, she said.
Katherine Jones, a MHS graduate and the mother of a 2016 senior, says she’s heartbroken her son will not be able to walk across the stage at The Pit.
“As a mom, it’s very upsetting,” she said. “As soon as I found out, my heart broke. I feel like the class of 2016 may be the only class that doesn’t get to walk across that stage. Me having graduated from Minden High, and his dad having graduated from Minden High, I wanted him to get that chance to walk across that stage, and he won’t have that memory.”
While she understands the safety factor, with graduation moved to the new gym, it is difficult to decide which family members will get to physically see her son walk across
“I know it’s a safety issue, and I’m OK with that,” she said. “The biggest part of it is that they limited the number of people they can invite to the graduation. That’s a big deal, especially when you have extended family, where parents are divorced and remarried. In our case, that’s the case. Glenn has several sets of grandparents and several sets of parents and now he’s having to break that list down.”
MHS Senior Glenn Hamilton has six siblings, she said.
Tucker says graduation will still be at 7 p.m., Friday, May 13, in the main gym, and each senior is allowed six tickets for family members. Any overflow will be moved to the auditorium where they will be able to watch the ceremony streamed live via internet, adding people can watch the ceremony from home or mobile device with internet access.
“We are using our rainy day plan that we’ve had for years and years,” she said. “We’ve not had more than 2,000 people attend graduation since I’ve been here, and that should accommodate our need. We just need people to be cooperative and flexible and realize this is no fault of anyone’s. I’m very proud of my students and my staff so far. They’ve been nothing but kind, cooperative and concerned.”
They are allowing seating for 1,200, plus 200 graduates, so it will still be a packed house, she said. The auditorium seats 500.
Hamilton says he’s sad that he won’t be able to follow in his predecessors’ footsteps by walking across the stage at The Pit, but he understands the situation.
“I’m glad that we get to graduate, but it’s sad that we don’t get to make the walk that many others have,” he said. “We have limited seating, which stinks, but we are the class of 2016, and we shall overcome all of this and have a great graduation.”
Tucker says Head Coach Spencer Heard is moving the football program, including lockers, weight room and football equipment into the basement of the current building. While not ideal, she says it is the only space that will work right now.
“It was the only space we have that we could creatively come up with,” she said.
The good news, she says, is they were able to salvage all of their equipment.
She also assured that football will continue in the fall, but plans on how they will play their home games and where they will practice is still up in the air.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says they may have to play home games at another school or play all of their games away. It has not yet been decided, he said.
Rawls says while plans are not concrete, they are discussing demolishing the old gym and building a field house.
“The board is aware of it, and they will decide pretty quickly what to do,” he said. “They may just decide to go ahead and put the home side of the stadium on the other side of the field. In other words take the home side, put it on the other side where you have that big hill and use that hill to secure the stadium, and go ahead and tear down the existing one.”
The issue, he says, is the creek that runs underneath the stadium. The thought is that if another catastrophic flood occurs, it will wash out again, he said.
If the home side is demolished, then that side will become the visitors’ side, and portable bleachers will be placed there, he said.
The old gym, built in 1939, would be demolished and a field house would be built in the parking lot behind the current visitors side. The space where the old gym currently stands would be additional parking, he said.
This is all very preliminary and this is just one option of many, he emphasized, and very early in the planning stages. Costs and funding have not yet been discussed, he says, but those numbers are being currently being calculated.