Missoula County Public Schools announced on Wednesday that they have received approval from MCCHD to go forward with in-person graduation ceremonies in two weekends.
"Thank you to our senior families for their continued patience regarding our graduation ceremonies," MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson wrote in a news release. "We have completed our plans and submitted to the Missoula City-County Health Department. We received their approval today (Wednesday)."
For in-town high schools (Willard, Big Sky, Sentinel, and Hellgate) MCPS will use Washington-Grizzly Stadium, located on the UM campus. Seeley-Swan High School will graduate at Seeley High School. Watson said using the UM venue allowed them to develop a plan to group the attendees and graduates with separate parking and entrances, which was acceptable to the health department.
"This plan will allow us to have an in-person ceremony that achieves the goal of having seniors together to graduate with their classmates and allow for no more than two guests per graduate to be present for the ceremony," Watson wrote. "We are thankful to President (Seth) Bodnar, the University of Montana, and the Missoula City-County Health Department for their collaboration and support with this new plan."
Watson wrote that MCPS explored other options, like the Kettlehouse Amphitheater, but saw Washington-Grizzly as a better, larger venue to continue practicing social distancing.
Here is some basic information regarding the ceremonies.
- Seeley-Swan HS will graduate in their gym on May 31 at 1 p.m. Details regarding the number of guests for each student and the safety protocols will be provided in the coming weeks.
- Willard will graduate at Washington-Grizzly stadium on Thursday, June 4 at 4 p.m. Each graduate will be allowed to bring no more than two guests. Graduates will receive more information in the coming weeks.
- Hellgate, Sentinel and Big Sky will graduate on Friday, June 5, with Saturday saved as a backup day in case of weather delays. They will plan for our ceremonies to occur on Friday, but they encourage folks to save both days as potential graduation days. They will use the times advertised at the start of the year. Hellgate at 9 a.m., Sentinel at noon and Big Sky at 3 p.m. Each graduate will be allowed no more than two guests. Details regarding guest tickets will be provided next week.
Watson also sent out a more detailed letter of the regulations and expectations to graduating seniors and their families. You can read all of those details here.
"What we're really hoping is that the messaging we give to students and parents is that this is really a privilege this year, to be able to do this," Watson told MTN News. "Because there's lots of other places around the country that are not able to do this. And because of that reason we really have to take the precautions seriously and abide by social distancing and use of masks and just try to be as careful as possible.
"It's before and after the activity. You know, what's going on in the parking lot. Are people gathering and talking to each other outside? We're going to try to encourage people not to do that. But obviously it's not going to be easy. What we're all trying to avoid is that it would create a community outbreak because of an event that we pulled together. A lot of those protocols that we put in there are for everybody's safety."