Monday, May 10, 2004

Bug fear sends school events indoors


Will cicadas plague grads and party-goers?

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

With 5 billion uninvited cicadas ready to bully their way into outdoor graduation ceremonies and other end-of-school events, officials face a choice: avoid, endure or embrace the pesky bugs.

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College was the first to raise a white flag to the red-eyed invaders now emerging from a 17-year slumber.

[img]
Bryan Kennedy of Colerain Township sends out a message to his mom during commencement at Wilmington College Sunday.
(Mike Simons photo)
Cincinnati State officials decided in March to move its traditional June outdoor graduation inside. And at Northern Kentucky's Thomas More College, officials will decide today whether to do the same.

The University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Northern Kentucky University and College of Mount St. Joseph all traditionally hold indoor graduations. Miami University held its commencement outside Saturday.

But thousands of Miami alumni might be headed for cover in June during the school's annual alumni barbecue. And the Springer School in O'Bryonville hastily shot its annual outdoor graduating class photos on Friday, instead of early June, because of cicadas' well-documented disrespect for the stillness required for class pictures.

Mount Notre Dame High School in Reading is packing up its June "Spirit Day" of outdoor games for the great indoors. And the annual St. Ursula Academy "Senior Tea" later this month - an outdoor tradition since 1911 when graduating seniors in elegant formal attire entertain outside the school's East Walnut Hills campus - is taking its refined ambiance inside, away from the uncultured misbehavior of cicada Brood X.

The number of Greater Cincinnati schools opting for such pre-emptive, evasive tactics remains small for now and most school officials are nervously optimistic they can endure the coming swarm.

"We want very much to have our graduation outside," said Ray Finke, principal of Holmes High School in Covington. "We're hoping the cicadas will come out this week and give us a pretty good idea on how difficult it will be to have an outdoor graduation. In the end it'll be a judgment call and if I make the wrong call, I'm sure you'll hear the screaming all the way to Cincinnati."

Terence Barton, principal of Indian Hill High School, hopes a good offense - in this case the inadvertent side-effect of digging up large chunks of the northern Hamilton County school's campus for a new high school - translates into a good defense.

"Our plan is to still have graduation outside because we're hoping all our construction work around here has dug up enough dirt that there won't be a whole bunch of cicadas around here," said Barton.

Many area high schools have contingency plans at the ready.

"We are still planning on holding graduation outside but have also reserved the gymnasium," said Madeira Schools spokeswoman Diane Nichols of the June 5 ceremony. "We will see how bad they are when the time comes and decide then."

Some schools are embracing the insect insurgents.

Invitations to the May 21 outdoor ceremony celebrating the opening of the University of Cincinnati's Main Street complex include an illustration of a cicada, said UC spokesman Greg Hand. The drawing includes a cicada quotation that he paraphrased as: "We'll be there, won't you?"

"The way we're looking at it, the cicadas are going to make for some memorable events this year," said Hand.

That is exactly what officials from Mother of Mercy High School are shooting for by holding a "Cicada Reunion" on school grounds June 3 for all alumni of the Westwood school, "especially those who were here during the past cicada invasions," said school spokeswoman Lisa Mahon Fluegeman.

She said alumni officials decided "it would be a fun thing ... to embrace the bugs rather than try to fight them."

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E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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