Bradenton, Florida -- How much would you pay to see your child graduate? Manatee High School traditionally holds its graduation at the school's football stadium while other high schools hold its ceremony at the convention center for free. This year, premium seating comes at a price for Manatee High families.
At a football game the 50-yard line is the place to sit, but when 500 Manatee High School seniors graduate, the end zone is where to be. This year, the first 10 rows come at a price $200 each for 15 seats.
"I don't think it's outrageous money," says parent Peggy Caruso.
However, grandparent Sara Lou Clark disagrees.
"Why should parents have to pay to watch their child or grandchild walk across the stage? That's wrong."
Plus, for the first time Manatee High is charging a $20 graduation fee.
"I can keep the tradition alive to allow as many people to come see a graduation," says Manatee High School Principal Don Sauer.
It's a tradition that is costing more to keep says Sauer about $13,000.
"The stage and chairs cost $2,000; the ramp $2,000; sound $1,800; programs $1,000 - $1,800 -- goes on and on," explains Sauer.
Due to the district's own financial problems, school officials say the district can't afford the usual $3,400 to help the school out this year.
When you take a look around Hawkins Stadium there's plenty of seating -- about 7,000 seats -- of which only the first 10 rows have been sold. The principal says if the graduation were held at the convention center, everyone sitting on the north side of the field would not be able to attend for a lack of space leaving out about 2,500 people.
"Three percent of the seats sold through donation helps fund a quarter of my graduation costs. That allows you to bring as many people to the stadium as you would like," says Sauer.
"I don't think it's fair. I think parents pay from first grade to 12th -- they pay, they pay, they pay," says Caruso.
But Clark adds, "[They're] not forcing them to pay $200 for seating. As for the $20 fee, it's the way things are these days -- you pay for everything."
Manatee High is not alone in charging students a graduation fee, one that Sauer says the school forgives for students who can't afford it.
Here is a listing of the High School graduation fees for Manatee County:
High School Graduation Fees
Bayshore HS: $110 (includes a breakfast, picnic and a yearbook party)
Braden River HS: Fee starts at $35 until the end of March. If paid in April, the fee goes up to $40 and then in May it goes up to $45.
Lakewood Ranch HS: Fees started at $25 until the end of the first semester; a late charge was added if they do not pay by then.
Manatee HS: Fee is $20 (new this year)
Palmetto HS: Fee is $70 and covers Cap and Gown, Senior Picnic, Graduate Medallion, Security at Graduation, Printing of Graduation Program
Southeast HS: Fee is $70, which includes the cap & gown