After casting a net across the Hudson Valley, the Kingston City School District (KCSD) looks likely to be holding the Kingston High School Class of 2023 graduation ceremony much closer to home.
Barring insurmountable logistical issues, the commencement will be held at Albert C. Gruner Memorial Field on Friday, June 23. Gruner Field, as its more commonly known, is located in Lake Katrine, just south of the district’s M. Clifford Miller Middle School.
“I’m going to meet with my architect next week, and if he says to me, ‘No way we can possibly help you design anything here then we may have to go backwards,” said KCSD Superintendent Paul Padalino. “But right now that’s, our only focus is using Gruner Field.”
Previous frontrunners included local events space Hutton Brickyards, which was already booked graduation weekend; and the athletic field at Rondout Valley High School, a little over 15 miles southwest from the KHS campus.
“(The Rondout Valley Central School District) were unbelievably generous and helpful,” Padalino said. “They have a fantastic facility down there, it’s brand new, it’s gorgeous.”
But after a handful of site visits, KCSD officials met with student representatives and Class of 2023 advisors and Rondout was put on the back burner for two primary reasons. The first was that the KHS graduation ceremony is traditionally held on a Friday, and Rondout High’s commencement was already booked for that night. And the other was that no matter how nice Rondout’s facilities were, there was something they could never provide: They aren’t in Kingston.
“One of the things they really want was to stay local, in the district,” Padalino said. “We had talked about Gruner before and I kind of passed it off, kind of like, ‘Let’s see if we can do something else,’ but they seemed to be really interested in Gruner.”
Padalino said the district is trying to figure out how to accommodate enough space for family and friends of a graduating class of over 450 students.
“Right now we can hold about 1,000 people with the seats that we have,” Padalino said. “We’re seeing what we can do to increase that, maybe buy more bleachers and put them along the (baseball field) baselines to have seats for more people. We want to do what the kids want to do, so we’re going to find a way to make it work.”
The superintendent added that in addition to space at M. Clifford Miller, the district also has an ongoing arrangement for overflow parking with the nearby Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Kingston High School traditionally holds its graduation ceremony at Dietz Stadium, but an extensive $20 million renovation project will already be underway in late-June. Padalino said a Gruner graduation is unlikely to draw the type of crowds they routinely see at Dietz.
“We usually packed that place,” Padalino said, adding that much of the crowd is people who are nearby and just enjoy the ceremony. “There’s probably 4-5,000 people there for our graduation, and I think a lot of people, it’s Friday night, and they may have no connection with the graduating class or with Kingston High School or anything, but they just kind of go over there to see it.”