Marion County families upset over indoor graduation limiting seats

Tropical Storm Andrea forced schools to move ceremony location, officials say

MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Some family members who showed up to see students graduate from Lake Weir High School in Marion County Thursday night were surprised to find out they would have to watch it on a screen instead of in person.

After Tropical Storm Andrea dumped inches of rain on the school's football field, where the graduation ceremony was supposed to take place, the ceremony was moved indoors.

But because of this, fewer people were allowed to attend in person.

Kristien Salisbury, a 17-year-old Lake Weir graduate, said she has no photos of her graduation because her father was among at least 100 family members who were unable to sit in the school gymnasium where the ceremony was moved.

"If I would have known that my dad couldn't get in, I probably wouldn't have even gone, because that's what it was for, for him, not me," Salisbury said.

School officials said the 347 graduates were each given four rain tickets and informed days before the ceremony that it would no longer be held on the football field for weather-related reasons.

"This was a decision that the school made, in conjunction with the superintendent's office, to keep everybody safe. We don't want people standing in the middle of the field in a rain storm, let alone a tropical storm," said Marion County Public Schools spokesman Kevin Christian. "This is a case of people not being responsible with their decisions and showing up on time."

Salisbury said her family was early and still couldn't get inside the gymnasium or cafeteria, where the ceremony was being live streamed.

Salisbury wrote an email to the school principal, Cynthia Saunders, after the ceremony to express her disappointment.

She said Saunders responded right away, saying the school didn't move the graduation to next weekend because of concerns for family members who might have taken off work or flown in for the ceremony.

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