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Olathe graduation ceremonies to be held tonight as planned

Updated: 2013-05-20T19:50:56Z

By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS

The Kansas City Star

Olathe school officials are monitoring weather forecasts for Monday night but expect graduations at the four high schools to go on at 7 p.m. as planned.

While it is cloudy, windy and rainy, “we are not hearing that there is any tornadic weather conditions,” Erin Dugan, assistant superintendent, said Monday morning. Weather changes throughout the day though, so the school district is communicating with Weatherornot.com, forecasters and consultants.

A 1 p.m. Monday forecast from the National Weather Service indicated that Johnson County was among areas in Kansas that were under a tornado watch until 10 p.m.

The threat of severe thunderstorms forced the four Olathe high schools — Olathe North, South, East and Northwest — to postpone graduation Sunday evening.

Doors at each of the four schools were supposed to open for graduation seating yesterday at 5 p.m. and families already had lined up outside. But with forecasters predicting bad weather, possibly including tornadoes, district officials opted for caution and canceled ceremonies.

The Olathe area was under a tornado watch when the decision to postpone the ceremonies until Monday was made about 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

“We wanted to give families enough time to plan,” Dugan said. “We knew seniors would be disappointed and that people would be inconvenienced, but we feel strong about our decision. We will always err on the side of safety. We are not going to put anyone in harm’s way.”

A few families complained to the district and on social media sites that because graduation was postponed, family members who’d flown in for the event would have to fly out and would miss the moment.

Dugan heard complaints from a couple of families out of the nearly 2,000 graduates scheduled to participate in commencement this year.

“But 99 percent of the feedback was positive,” Dugan said.

Olathe North student Shelby Laura wrote on the district Facebook page:

“Let's all take a minute to remember the tornado in Joplin two years ago. Some students did not make it home from their graduation that night. I am thankful the Olathe School District wanted to keep my family safe during this storm.”

After graduations Monday night, students will participate in Project Grad — the end of high school lock-in party — which also had been postponed.

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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