Washington High School will move its commencement indoors this year, due to the football field renovation project and uncertainty with the weather at another outdoor venue.

Graduation will take place Friday night, May 17, at 7 p.m. in the Blue Jay Gym, Principal Dr. Frank Wood announced Thursday.

Graduation exercises are typically held on Rauch Field on the high school campus, but oftentimes is forced indoors due to rain in the forecast or soggy conditions.

With the recent approval of a major overhaul to the outdoor athletic/band complex, school officials have been meeting to discuss where to hold graduation.

Work is already under way on the field and track, and the visiting side bleachers have been torn down.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said officials did consider other outdoor venues, such as the Main Stage area at the Washington Fairgrounds, but ultimately decided to keep commencement on campus in the big gym.

“It was a tough decision,” said Wood.

The downside is that students are always limited to the number of guests they can have when graduation is held indoors. Wood said each graduate will receive six tickets for guests. There are a little over 300 seniors this year.

VanLeer said good news is that the gym is now air-conditioned thanks to HVAC improvments completed at the high school this past year, so graduates and their guests will be much more comfortable than in past years.

Wood said many options were considered but the logostics of holding graduation off campus were not only expensive, but parking and handicapped accessbility, as well as lighting were issues, along with the weather.

At the fairgrounds, seating is the big issue, he said, with chairs having to be set up, and still no guarantee with the weather.

“We also looked at the motorsports arena at the fairgrounds, but getting the fencing down was an issue, among others, so in the end keeping it here on campus made the most sense,” said Wood, acknowleding some students may be disappointed with the decision.

“These kids are great and deserve a great spot for graduation, but we have a lot working against us and the gym will still be very nice and air-conditioned,” he said.

The ceremony also will be broadcast live on the district’s website so people at home can watch.