An exact number of attendees at Franklin County High School and Western Hills High School graduation ceremonies isn’t something administrators can provide because it’s not something they track, said Superintendent Mark Kopp.
“We’ve never taken attendance at graduation,” he said. “I know where this is leading and the Exum Center is just not large enough for us. I would love for us to use the Exum Center, but it’s just not big enough.”
Kopp said the seating capacity of William Exum Center at Kentucky State University seats 2,700 people, while the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park seats 5,500 people. The Frankfort Convention Center sat 5,000 people, said Frankfort-Franklin County Tourist and Convention Commission Director Robin Antenucci.
The Alltech Arena is the only venue with seating comparable to the convention center which is why it was chosen for FCS graduations, he said.
He said the decision to hold FCS graduations at the horse park was a direct result of the convention center being demolished. The time they held graduation there was last year during the 2017-2018 school year.
Before the Frankfort Convention Center was torn down other districts traveled to Frankfort for graduation. After the convention center was torn down last year now FCS has to travel to have graduation, Kopp said.
Charles Lewis, principal of Franklin County High School, said about 190 to 200 seniors graduate each year from his high school.
“Between family and extended family, I’d say easily 2,000 people attend graduation each year,” he said.
Western Hills Principal Greg Roush said there are between 175 and 215 seniors who graduate each year. He said last year 194 students graduated.
Both principals said families these days are not always made up of one dad, one mom and a sibling or two. There are a lot of extended and blended families with step-parents and step-siblings who attend graduation.
Kopp said there are between 600 and 700 people attending graduations who are not family members of a graduating child. The faculty of each school is required to attend graduations. The school choir performs, as does the band. The parents for both choir and band students come to watch, he said.
Roush said that when officials began discussing using the , they asked for student input. One student was upset because she had around 30 family members who wanted to attend but she would have to choose 10 because there wouldn’t be enough room for all of them, he said.
Roush and Kopp said the convention center was full when graduations were held there.
“I’m incredibly thankful for Kentucky State offering the Exum Center to us,” Kopp said. “We would have to issue tickets. We’re just not at the point where, as a district, we want to limit the number of attendees who want to attend.”
He said the Kentucky Horse Park had more than enough room to hold everyone when graduation was held there last year.