If Eli Frost has his way, the Chaska High class of 2024 will have a different graduation venue than the one the suburban school has used for more than a decade.

The southwest metro district, which enrolls about 9,300 students, has for years held its commencement ceremonies for Chaska and Chanhassen high schools at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. In late May, Frost, a Chaska High sophomore, petitioned the school board to consider a change, arguing it's a matter of separating church and state to make sure everyone feels welcome.

In the petition that's since garnered more than 400 signatures, Frost objects to the church's opposition to divorce and asserts that the church leaders have espoused anti-LGBTQ views.

"I know I and many other people didn't want it to be held at a church, period," Frost said.

Troy Dobbs, senior pastor, declined an interview, but in a statement said that although Grace Church does "affirm the teaching of the Bible regarding gender, marriage, and divorce," it does not discriminate against anyone.

"We welcome everyone," he wrote.

It's not unusual for districts with several high schools or large high schools to host their graduation ceremonies off-campus, especially when enrollment tops 1,200 per building. The Anoka-Hennepin and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan districts have hosted some ceremonies at the Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota.

Other districts have contracted with Minneapolis Convention Center, Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Target Center or U.S. Bank Stadium.

But it is rare for metro-area districts to host graduations at a place of worship. The Eastern Carver County and Shakopee districts have both contracted with Grace Church this year.

Shakopee district officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Eastern Carver County Schools officials say some parents and students have complained in the past about the church as a graduation venue. But the opposition has been more pronounced since Frost's petition.

"It wasn't on this level before," said Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams.

The church in Eden Prairie checks several boxes that district officials and the school board consider when choosing a venue for commencement ceremonies. Grace Church's auditorium seats about 7,000 — about three times the capacity of Chanhassen High's football stadium, the largest venue in the district.

That means students can invite as many friends and family as they'd like.

"To see whole families wrap around their graduates, that's huge," Sayles-Adams said.

The facility is also air-conditioned. And because the church already broadcasts its services, the auditorium is set up to easily livestream the commencement ceremony for friends and family who can't make it.

The church's centralized location — it's less than a 15-minute drive from both of the district's high schools — also means the whole Eastern Carver County district can celebrate together with graduations on the same day, back-to-back.

District spokeswoman Celi Haga said students enjoy seeing peers they went to elementary and middle school with, but were then separated from for high school, between commencements.

"There aren't a whole lot of school districts that do it all on the same day, so trying to keep the community together is a big thing," Haga said.

But Frost said those amenities aren't worth it when the venue may alienate some students and families of different faiths who don't agree with the church's teachings.

He understands that it might be more expensive to contract with another venue and that moving commencement to Minneapolis would extend the drive for Chaska and Chanhassen residents.

"That's a worthwhile tradeoff," Frost maintains.

District officials say they've heard from several community members who agree with Frost. They've also received emails from students and community members who want Grace Church to continue hosting the district's graduation ceremonies.

The district will pay nearly $28,000 to use the church this year, Haga said. That includes $11,250 to rent the auditorium and $16,400 for traffic control, security, video production and language translation, among other things.

Eastern Carver County Schools' contract with the venue comes up every year, Sayles-Adams said. And Frost's petition has officials ready to consider whether to renew it.

"As a district, you listen and if necessary you make adjustments," Sayles-Adams said.