Approaching graduation revives debate about Montclair amphitheater
By ERIN ROLL
The long-standing tradition of holding Montclair’s graduation at the school’s stone amphitheater may have outgrown its time. Some parents say it is time to move it to a larger venue, while others want to hold onto the tradition.
Last year, 570 students graduated from Montclair High. Even with parents being issued tickets, there were more attendees than the amphitheater’s seats. A large number of spectators had to stand outside and watch over the fence, while others watched the graduation on closed-circuit television in the cafeteria, parents said.
With graduating classes growing in numbers and therefore the audiences becoming larger, parents have suggested it’s time to move the ceremony to Woodman Field. Others want to hold on to tradition and say the amphitheater is too important to do away with.
Graduation announcements have gone out, and the class of 2018 will stick with tradition.
When the students enter the amphitheater during the ceremony, they walk over a pair of foot bridges cross over Toney’s Brook on their way to the amphitheater stage. Some parents love the picturesque scene.
The amphitheater can hold up to 700 people, and up to 1,500 people if folding chairs are added.
Students are given three tickets. On a local news site, a community ad reads, “Endearing grandparents need two tickets for Montclair High School graduation on June 21. Will pay $50.”
Tracey Grossbach has a son in the senior class and she thinks it’s time to seek a bigger venue.
“I think it’s ridiculous that families only get three tickets,” Grossbach said.
The three-ticket limit doesn’t work for most families, she said, with multiple siblings or wanting to include grandparents.
Montclair has adapted and benefited from the population growth over the past few decades, she said. “So why suddenly is that okay for everything else but not the school district?”
Several people argued on social media last week in favor of keeping the graduation ceremony in the amphitheater, saying the tradition is important to Montclair’s history and culture. But others say they were advised to show up at the high school at 3 p.m. in order to get a seat in time for the 6 p.m. ceremony.
Latifah Jannah wants the tradition to continue with her granddaughter who will be graduating this year.
“I just think there’s some benefit to ritual and tradition,” said Jannah, who will also be joining the BOE as its newest member later this year.
Jannah said last year’s seating problem was a first for the district and maybe due to a ticketing issue rather than a seating issue.
She said she hoped the district and the town would be able to work together to ensure that the amphitheater could somehow be included in graduation ceremonies in the future.
Some parents have suggested the move to Woodman Field, with a bridge-crossing ceremony for the graduates at the amphitheater before heading to the field.
Audrey Wilson, whose son is graduating this year, assumed that after the problems last year the school would move the ceremony to another venue.
She claims her son and his friends don’t care where the ceremony takes place.
“Twenty years ago, the amphitheater was ideal. But this is a different day and age, and there’s a lot more kids in the schools,” she said.