Philadelphia School District is the 8th largest school district in the nation, serving over 200,000 students from grades K-12, with 57 high schools. As the Pandemic waged on in 2021, it was evident that a need to streamline commencement ceremonies safely for students, families, and faculty was priority one, but it also presented numerous challenges.
Location: Where could all 57 schools (some with class sizes of 500+ students) plus their families all convene safely? There wasn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and with many ceremony dates already scheduled, it was evident that it would require multiple outdoor locations to facilitate the 2021 graduation season for PSD. Eight locations within the district were selected across the city to host the outdoor ceremonies over the week of June 9-12, 2021, with a rain delay scheduled over June 15-17, 2021.
Weather: Choosing to schedule outdoor events anytime in the summer is not for the faint of heart but scheduling 57 high school graduations over multiple days without an indoor alternative is only for event superheroes! Contingencies would have to be planned: rain dates, indoor locations (in the form of auditoriums and gymnasiums), and live streaming for all the ceremonies would be part of the planning to execute this event seamlessly.
Live Stream: From the beginning, planning discussions included transportation, parking, fear, infection rates, vaccination and masking policies, and more. Without question, live streaming had to be part of the production requirement. In addition, an independent WiFi network needed to be set up at each location to facilitate live streaming, which complicated matters.
Power: Making sure each location had access to a stable power source was a more significant challenge than initially thought. Very few sites had access to power, let alone enough amps to power a concert line array, front of house for technical staff, and motors for genie towers. Most locations required mobile power generation and the right team to source them.
Audio Visual Equipment and Technical Support: Finding one audiovisual production firm to deploy equipment to 8 outdoor locations and 6 indoor locations over multiple days would be challenging. Finding one firm with all that, plus daily support from a project management team and technical team, able to mobilize from outdoor to indoor whenever necessary, would have been like searching for a needle in a haystack. Some large national firms were considered, but ultimately, they didn’t possess the local relationships required to pull off such a feat.
AMP Event Group stepped in to lead the charge, providing project management, writing the scope, and sourcing audio, video, and live streaming equipment and talent from several local partners across the Philadelphia region. We helped create over sixty jobs in an industry that the pandemic had decimated. Partnering with these firms enabled AMP to provide identical solutions at each location and deploy and redeploy technical teams between locations when the weather did not play nice (and boy! did mother nature deliver a wild ride!). Thunderstorms plagued the first week of the schedule, beginning the early morning of June 9th, and things continued to get worse. The weather pushed most of the programs for days one and two to indoor sites for smaller in-person ceremonies or ceremonies that were only live-streamed. The remaining ceremonies were pushed into the rain delay schedule the following week. Not to worry- all the planning and contingencies, along with backup plans to the backup plans, enabled AMP Event Group to push and pull all the levers that made it all happen seamlessly.
The results speak for themselves. An outdoor event project of this scale combined with wild weather, lack of site infrastructure, lack of event experience, and the inability to leverage local partners could have spelled disaster for lesser event production firms. However, our decades of experience with operating events like The Philadelphia Marathon, along with our heavily tested planning processes and our strong industry partnerships, made AMP Event Group the perfect choice to deliver a seamless experience to the graduating class of 2021 in Philadelphia. We can do the same for you. Let us show you how!