A stormy finish for the Class of 2019

posted May 25, 2019, 8:43 AM by Granger Meador   [ updated May 25, 2019, 9:23 AM ]
Class of 2019
The Class of 2019 in what was the school's first indoor commencement in 25 years

Mother Nature kept everyone on their toes during the final week of the 2018-19 academic year with a flood that led to detours around town and impacted site parking at Bartlesville High School, culminating in its first indoor commencement in a quarter-century. 

The Caney River crested on Tuesday, May 21 at 18.2 feet above flood stage, inundating the high school's floodplain parking lot, practice fields, and Haley Environmental Laboratory east of Shawnee Avenue by Tuesday morning with Shawnee itself flooded and closed. Final exams continued at BHS with students and staff scrambling for the remaining parking spaces on campus while everyone across town detoured around closed roadways for the remainder of the week. Richard Kane Elementary also had to alter some of its procedures to accommodate the conditions.

The parking lot in the floodplain east of the high school campus has filled multiple times since it was built in 2002, but this was the highest the Caney River had crested since reaching 21.6 feet in July 2007 and was the highest flood during a school year since the record 27.7 foot flood in October 1986 which brought several feet of water into the bottom level of Custer Stadium and the lowest areas of the Phillips Field House. This flood only brought some leaks along with seeping groundwater into a few low rooms on the high school campus.

The Caney River began to recede Tuesday night, but more rains then brought another smaller crest on Thursday morning. The river had dropped below flood stage by the time of Commencement on Friday, May 24. But the floodplain parking was still sloppy and muddy, so school buses provided shuttle service from the ConocoPhillips/Phillips 66 main parking lot downtown to the campus from 6 p.m. onward.

Yet another incoming thunderstorm then forced the school to activate its Commencement Inclement Weather Plan for the first indoor ceremony in 25 years. About 360 seniors and many teachers occupied the floor of the Bruin Field House as 2,200 ticketed guests watched and cheered.

Hundreds of overflow guests watched the event in the nearby and thankfully cooler 1,200-seat auditorium courtesy of a Facebook Live video stream provided by a dedicated community volunteer. Dozens more guests watched from the commons. By the next morning, the school's live stream had reached about 1,500 views and the Examiner-Enterprise's own Facebook Live stream had attracted 5,200 views.

The end of the event was suitably stormy, with audio problems as the program ended and the skies opened up to shower the Class of 2019 and their guests as they exited campus. 

The district appreciates the patience and perseverance of students, staff, parents, and patrons in what was a memorable and challenging final week of the school year across the district and especially at Bartlesville High School.