Despite the wet, windy and cold weather, Gilbert High School's Thursday night graduation ceremony remained outside, a decision that has upset some parents.
Chris Houseknecht missed his daughter's name being called at the ceremony because he had to take his 81-year-old mother home. She was too cold and couldn't stand the weather any longer, he said.
"Faculties' poor planning ruined a very special experience for a lot of people," Houseknecht said. "Bottom line, it should not have been held outside."
Houseknecht bought a video of the ceremony so he could see his daughter graduate. He said he would have rather seen it postponed instead of having to sit out in the rain and cold.
"Health and safety issues were thrown out of the way for the sake of 'We've always held it outside and we're going to have it outside,' " Houseknecht said.
The decision on where to have high school graduations is left up to each school's principal, said associate superintendent Dave Allison, adding that he's not going to "second guess someone's decision."
"Next year, we'll be better prepared on how to handle it," said Allison, noting that in his 15 years with the Gilbert Unified School District, it had never rained on a graduation night. "Hopefully, we'll make even better decisions next year to further enhance it."
The decision to keep Gilbert High's graduation outside was made by principal Charlie Santa Cruz not only for the tradition, but because it wasn't raining at the beginning of the ceremony, Allison said.
"No matter what you do, you're going to get some people upset," Allison said. "There's advantages and disadvantages (to both plans.)"
Beth Langerud flew from North Dakota with her sister and niece to see her daughter graduate, and she said it was "absolutely horrible."
She thought the ceremony would be inside, so she didn't bring her jacket or an umbrella. She stood under the bleachers for cover, waiting until her daughter's name was called.
"To sit and watch that rain pour on those kids, I've never seen anything like that," Langerud said. "I just think it was inappropriate and very, very poorly planned."
While students were walking off the field after getting their diplomas, security was blowing their whistles to tell them to stay in their seats until the ceremony was over, Langerud said.
Parents were running on the field to give their graduate an umbrella. Female students had makeup running down their face. Gowns and caps were soaked and were "pretty much ruined," Houseknecht said.
Senior class president Stephany Gomez said she wasn't able to give her speech because everyone left after the names were called.
The 17-year-old said she was disappointed, especially because of all the hard work she put into the speech.
However, Gomez said she was "OK" with still graduating on the field, despite getting "drenched."
"I think everyone would have regretted it if it was inside," Gomez said. "It's tradition, it's supposed to be outside. But, when the wind started picking up, a lot of parents didn't like that it was outside. My parents stayed the whole time. They were freezing, but they were glad they were able to see me graduate."
Higley High and Highland High schools' graduations were both moved inside Thursday.