BHS track standouts forced to decide: Graduation or regional championships

Graduation date change will impact track teams

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/1/24

The decision to move Barrington High School’s graduation ceremony from Sunday afternoon to Saturday has left a group of parents and students feeling frustrated.  

Sara DeBoth said the …

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BHS track standouts forced to decide: Graduation or regional championships

Graduation date change will impact track teams


The decision to move Barrington High School’s graduation ceremony from Sunday afternoon to Saturday has left a group of parents and students feeling frustrated. 

Sara DeBoth said the commencement schedule change which was announced late last month will force her son Iain and more than a dozen other students to choose between going to their graduation ceremony or competing in the New England Track Championships.

DeBoth said the New England Championships are traditionally held on the second Saturday in June — that is the same day (June 8) that Barrington will hold its graduation this year.

“Disappointment and frustration,” DeBoth said, while describing her feelings about the situation. 

DeBoth wants to know how the graduation date change came about in the first place. 

For decades, Barrington High School has held its graduation ceremony on a Sunday afternoon. But in November, BHS Principal Christopher Ashley emailed families of senior students with a survey, asking them if they would prefer to have the commencement on a Sunday or move it to a Saturday. 

“We received feedback from families last school year that hosting graduation on Sunday afternoon may make it difficult for families to plan and host their own family celebrations,” Ashley wrote in the email. “We brought this feedback to our School Improvement Team (SIT) earlier this fall and the SIT members felt it was important to gather feedback from all current senior families on the possibility of shifting graduation one day earlier to Saturday early afternoon.”

In mid-December, Ashley emailed families again. He wrote that the high school graduation would remain on Sunday, adding “While many families supported the idea of a change, there were still some families which felt like the change would be disruptive,” he wrote. 

But that message changed a few days later. 

At the School Committee meeting on Thursday night, Dec. 21, Ashley spoke about the process used while determining the graduation date. He said SIT members recently met and discussed the graduation date. He said they felt that the data showed a desire to move the graduation to a Saturday. The SIT recommended moving the commencement one day earlier, to Saturday, June 8, said Ashley. He agreed and announced the change in an email to students’ families: “After this discussion with the School Committee, it was decided to move graduation for the Class of 2024 to Saturday, June 8th, 2024 and Friendship Service to Friday evening, June 7th.”

DeBoth was surprised to see the news. She said some parents had emailed Ashley prior to the announcement. 

“I informed him who it would impact and why, and I asked him why is this even an option?” DeBoth said. “How did this come up? What is the point of the school calendar?”

DeBoth said the School Committee-approved calendar lists Sunday, June 9 as the graduation date. She questioned how the process could allow a change mid-year. 

“I also asked him to keep the one tradition that still stands at Barrington High School, of a Sunday graduation. And I asked him to not make these athletes choose between graduating and going to New Englands,” DeBoth said. 

Barrington High School is anticipating a very strong outdoor track program this spring. The Eagles are expected to vie for the state championship and will likely qualify a number of athletes for the New England Track Championships. 

DeBoth said the graduation date survey did not include any mention of the conflict with the New England Track Championships.

“I know at least two parents who wrote notes in the survey about the New Englands,” DeBoth said. “One went so far as to suggest talking to the (BHS track) coach before making the decision.

“I would hope that with people being more informed about the situation, that they would do the right thing. I would hope so. I wouldn’t have made the choice to change it if I knew it would affect any graduating seniors.”

DeBoth also challenged the survey results that allegedly support the date change — there were a little more than 100 responses to the survey, with about 75 endorsing the Saturday graduation date. 

“I’m a little appalled the reason it’s being changed is that 75 to 80 people said ‘Yes,’ when the (senior) class is around 275 (students),” DeBoth said. 

DeBoth said she spoke to one of the track team coaches who said that between 12 and 15 students were expected to compete at track regionals. The captains of the boys team sent an email to Ashley voicing their disappointment with the graduation date change. 

“Most of the kids who will compete (at New Englands) are going to college or university for track and field, so it’s a big deal to them,” DeBoth said, adding that she is still hopeful Ashley will change the graduation ceremony back to Sunday, June 9. 

In an email to the Barrington Times, Ashley acknowledged that he was aware the graduation date change would impact seniors who qualify for the New England Track Championship.

“We are still debating the exact time of graduation, so I plan on bringing this back to our School Improvement Team for discussion,” Ashley wrote. “I will keep families informed of any related updates.”

DeBoth said she had traded emails with Ashley, who referenced the idea of changing the time for the graduation ceremony. She said a time change would not matter, as track meets run for hours, often taking up the entire day. DeBoth also said the location of the meet could present issues. 

“New Englands can be anywhere in New England,” DeBoth said, adding that last year’s regional championship was held in Orono, Maine at the University of Maine. “Pushing the time back doesn’t make a difference.”

DeBoth said she believes every family needs to be in agreement about any change to the graduation date. She does not want to see a group of students from this year’s senior class impacted negatively.

“There are a lot of strong athletes… they’re going to go far,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that they’ve put in a position where they have to choose.”

DeBoth also said that the track team members may not be the only BHS student-athletes affected by the graduation date change. She said postseason playoffs and tournaments for other Rhode Island Interscholastic League sports are often held the second weekend in June.

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