Besides having to make the grade academically, Reynoldsburg High School students will now have to pay a $20 graduation fee.

Besides having to make the grade academically, Reynoldsburg High School students will now have to pay a $20 graduation fee.

The Reynoldsburg Board of Education approved the charge at its meeting Aug. 17 in an attempt to cover the $14,000 rental cost for use of the Schottenstein Center as its venue, and to avoid taking money from the district's general fund.

In June, the board discussed how the past couple of graduation ceremonies had turned into a more raucous celebration for some when it should be a more solemn, serious event for all.

As a result, Superintendent Steve Dackin asked high school principal Ed Johnson to begin exploring options for possibly finding a smaller venue for graduations, beginning with the class of 2011.

After doing some research, Johnson found that the Schottenstein Center was overall the best venue for RHS graduations. He recommended the $20 fee.

He said he researched other venues, but they were either too expensive or could not comfortably hold the number of people who usually attend graduation ceremonies.

"We looked at four venues and looked at what some of the other equally sized high schools in the are we using and the costs," Johnson said. "We found that some of them are liberal with sharing what their costs were they were between $16,000 and $23,000, and that's pretty expensive.

"We also thought it would be a real cultural shock to the city to go from having anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 guests and families to a potential of just 3,000 people, or maybe two tickets per family."

As for overenthusiastic celebrations during the ceremony, Johnson said the issue will take care of itself.

"I don't think we have that big of an issue and I think it's more than manageable and manageable within our current resources," he said.

He called it "more of an awareness issue than anything else, or an advisory issue and a plea to parents in the mail prior to the ceremony."

Johnson said he recommended the $20 fee per student as a way to help cover the $14,000 it costs to rent the Schottenstein Center.

"We're basically a financially strapped district," he said. "Graduation is not free, and we've been taking general fund money in the past to pay for it.

"It's been in my experience in my past positions (in other school districts) that there was always a senior fee to help pay for those," he said.

Superintendent Steve Dackin said the district has in the past always paid to rent a venue for graduation, but times have changed.

"We're in different economic times now so it requires us to think differently about things that maybe we've always done before I'm looking at every single way we can stretch this levy," he said. "Fourteen-thousand dollars in a budget of $54-million doesn't sound like a lot, but those kinds of things can add up over time."

Johnson said the district has been extremely generous to its students and commended that, but said in these difficult times, he thinks it's more than fair to ask for nominal fee to cover the cost of graduation.

He said the fee will probably pay for a little more than half of the $14,000 rental fee for the Schottenstein Center. The remaining cost will be paid by other means, such as having fundraisers, but nothing will be taken from the general fund.

"We want to relieve the general fund, that was the issue for us," Dackin said. "We wanted to find a way to fund it while having an appropriate venue for our kids because we think our kids deserve to have a good venue but not at the expense of the taxpayers' dollar."