Arroyo Grande High School’s graduation won’t be on the football field this year. Here’s why

Nipomo and Arroyo Grande high schools are getting new stadiums

Nipomo and Arroyo Grande high schools are getting new stadium upgrades next year that will transform the aging fields.
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Nipomo and Arroyo Grande high schools are getting new stadium upgrades next year that will transform the aging fields.

For the first time in recent history, Arroyo Grande High School’s graduating class likely won’t walk into the school’s football stadium during graduation.

Instead, the Class of 2019 will parade onto a different sports field on campus, with family and friends sitting on portable bleachers and a temporary sound system broadcasting the ceremony.

Jim Empey, assistant superintendent of business for Lucia Mar Unified School District, told The Tribune on Monday that the high school’s ongoing stadium renovation project, which was originally expected to be done in time for graduation, is facing some delays. Those have forced the school to make changes to its commencement ceremony.

“Our priority is to have graduation be a great event for our students and families,” Empey wrote in an email to The Tribune.

It is unclear when Arroyo Grande’s graduation ceremony was last not held on the football field.

According to district spokeswoman Amy Jacobs, graduation was held in the quad at the school up until the late 1970s. Sometime after that, the ceremony transitioned to the stadium.

Work is currently underway at Arroyo Grande and Nipomo high schools to upgrade their sports complexes, bringing in new, safer bleachers, all-weather tracks, concession and restrooms buildings and all-weather surfacing at both ends of the field.

The projects, estimated to cost more than $1 million each, are being paid for using Lucia Mar’s Measure I bonds.

The projects were originally expected to be completed in time for graduation, but Empey said there “have been delays out of our control” for both projects. Specifically, he said, bleacher construction is being paused around the state while officials ensure it is safe.

Rather than delay the construction to after the June graduation ceremonies, which would impact their use in the fall, Lucia Mar chose to go forward with the projects and adjust both schools’ graduation ceremonies.

Arroyo Grande High’s ceremony is scheduled for June 6, while Nipomo High’s ceremony will be held June 7.

Nipomo High’s graduation ceremony is still expected to be held at its football stadium, Empey said, with the district bringing in portable bleachers to hold students’ family and friends.

If that is impossible, the school will hold its ceremony somewhere else on campus, he added.

Arroyo Grande High’s campus is older — it was built in 1953, while Nipomo High School opened in 2002 — and, as a result, is more complex to renovate.

“We doubt that the graduation will be able to be held in the stadium,” Empey wrote.

Instead, Arroyo Grande High’s graduation will be held at the sports field directly to the south of the stadium, and will be outfitted with temporary bleachers and a sound system. Parking will be available for those with special needs and shuttle vehicles will be provided, he said.

Though the ceremonies will look a little different this year, Empey promised each will still be “a great occasion.”

“The Lucia Mar community is supportive, proud and resilient,” Empey said. “Our graduation ceremonies at NHS and AGHS will be different this year, but as always a great occasion.”

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.