DENVER, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Graduation outside at East Lincoln High School has been a June tradition for years. Many return to see family members walk across the stage, but this year, there may not be enough seats at the ceremony for everyone.

Yvette Patterson has watched her children participate in graduation ceremonies for the last six years at East Lincoln High School.

She loves the tradition of graduation on the football field, full of pomp and circumstance. Her youngest of three will graduate in 2023, but the ceremony may be different.

“We’ve come such a long way,” added Patterson. “We’re back to normal, and now we might have to graduate in the gym.”

It’s not the pandemic stopping the ceremony but a decision to replace the field with turf. Work starts the first week of May.

School officials say spring sports events will be on alternate fields. They anticipate the football field’s completion date for the first or second week of August, just in time for football season.

But some parents say the district should delay the project instead of shaking up graduation.

“To see them walk across that football field, sit in their seats … it was such an amazing experience,” says Patterson. “I really want to do it one more time with my son.”

In 2022, Lincoln County Schools received $3.25 million from North Carolina to replace three high school fields.

A district spokesperson says if delays occur, it could cost the district more money. Any delay puts the project at risk of not being done in time for the new school year and possibly running into supply chain issues.

In a statement, the spokesperson wrote, “School administration continues to meet with the student government to discuss alternative locations for graduation.”

Graduation will be in the gym, and students will be allowed four tickets for family members. Leaving many families to pick and choose who can attend the ceremony.

“The kids have worked so hard, and for us to go see them graduate and walk across that field, it’s so heartbreaking,” said Patterson. “I hope that they can come to an agreement.”

Graduation is not the only tradition at East Lincoln High’s field that will not take place this year. Denver’s annual 4th of July fireworks show will also go to another location.