Del Oro High to restage graduation ceremonies indoors

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013 - 8:04 am

Del Oro High School in Loomis will repeat its commencement indoors tonight, days after intense heat at an outdoor graduation ceremony Saturday morning sent five people to local hospitals and forced the city's fire chief to halt the proceedings.

The 6:30 p.m. ceremony will be held in the school's Bonner Gymnasium.

"Our goal is to give these students a classy, dignified ceremony. It will be a unique experience," said Jeff Tooker, a Placer Union High School District assistant superintendent, on Monday. "These families deserve it."

Questions have since arisen over the decision to hold a daytime ceremony at the stadium. Del Oro Assistant Principal Paul Lundberg said concerns that included potential conflicts with families' graduation night events, attendance issues and, yes, the weather influenced the school's decision to plan a 9 a.m. start.

Golden Eagle Stadium, which seats upward of 7,000 spectators, seemed ideal. Today's ceremony at the campus' 2,000-seat gym means tickets will be capped at four per graduate.

Del Oro has taken about 600 reservations for the event.

"At events, our numbers are huge. We don't want people to stop coming to important events," Lundberg said. "It's a very formal ceremony that we try to get through very quickly. It's never gone more than an hour and a half. We hoped to get out of there by 10:30 and avoid the heat. We didn't."

In all, 15 spectators were sickened, two critically, in the stifling heat. Five of the spectators were taken to nearby Sutter Roseville Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente Roseville to be treated.

All five have since been released, said Sutter Health and Kaiser officials.

Many of the stricken suffered from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So many were stricken so quickly that first responders set up triage stations to tend to them as responders from across south Placer County rushed to the school.

More than 7,000 people had crammed into the stadium as early as 7:30 a.m. to watch the ceremony, said Loomis fire and Del Oro officials. By mid-morning, temperatures neared 90 degrees on a day of record-breaking heat across the Sacramento area.

Many of the 420 students in the Del Oro Class of 2013 – the school's largest ever, Tooker said – were waiting for their names to be called Saturday morning when heat began to take its toll on spectators in the stands.

On the field, fire officials told graduates to shed their black robes as a precaution against the heat. Lundberg was among those on the field.

"We were shocked when (Loomis Fire Chief Dave) Wheeler canceled the event," Lundberg said. "We weren't realizing how bad it was getting."

Del Oro and district administrators and Loomis fire officials have since begun discussing options for future events. School, district and emergency officials huddled over the weekend and other agencies may join the conversation.

"Since Saturday, our admin team has discussed a lot of alternatives," Lundberg said, including live-streaming ceremonies and ways to make the outdoor venue more comfortable.

"We'll be busy this summer," Lundberg said. "We don't want the results we had this time."

Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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