For the first time in the more than 50-year history of Fontana High School, the Steelers' graduation ceremony will not be held at the school stadium this year.
Instead, the Fohi Class of 2010 will be holding its commencement at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario on Wednesday, May 26.
In fact, all four of the Fontana Unified School District's comprehensive high schools and both of its continuation high schools will hold graduation events at the spacious 11,000-seat Ontario arena at the end of May.
FUSD Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks said that after looking at all the pros and cons of the situation, the district felt it was best to have all the graduations at the Ontario site.
Last year, the Kaiser and Fontana A.B. Miller commencement events were at the Ontario arena, while Summit's first-ever graduation was at San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore.
"The most important reason to have the graduations at the arena is because we don't have to limit tickets," Olsen-Binks said. "We can accommodate parents, grandparents, friends, everybody. Plus, there is ample parking, and the facility is beautiful. It's just so much nicer to be there."
For example, close-ups of the students will be featured on the giant video screen at the arena, she said.
The one disadvantage is that it costs the district more to hold the events in Ontario, she said. But overall, she said the district felt it was worth the extra expense.
There were always extra costs associated with holding the Fohi graduation at Steeler Stadium, she said, referring to the setting up of the stage, rental of sound equipment, and extra security.
Richard Stedry, the FUSD's deputy superintendent of business services, said the district will pay a total of about $180,000 to hold the ceremonies in Ontario, as opposed to about $135,000 if the schools hosted the events.
But he said that included in the cost of the arena is the payment of the parking fee for the graduates' families and friends, so the events will offer both free admission and free parking for all attendees.
"Plus, the arena is air conditioned and the weather will not cause any concerns," Stedry said.
Nevertheless, several Fohi students said they were disappointed that the graduation will not be held at their school stadium (which seats about 7,000).
"I think it's important to hold the ceremony here and represent Fohi at the school," said Vanessa Islas, a student in the Multicultural Club.
"It's unjust for us," added Maria Morales. "We have been going to this school for a long time, and now we have to go to another place. We want to graduate at our own place."
Fohi teacher Aymara Sandoval said that it is unfortunate that the school will not host the ceremony.
"We have a wonderful campus for the students, and not graduating here will take away from the school spirit," she said.
The graduation schedule for the FUSD schools:
Tuesday, May 25 - Birch Continuation High School, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, May 25 - Fontana A.B. Miller High School, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 26 - Citrus Continuation High School, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, May 26 - Fontana High School, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 27 - Kaiser High School, 3 p.m.
Thursday, May 27 - Summit High School, 7 p.m.