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MCPS will 'strongly encourage' face masks for graduation ceremonies

Posted at 7:23 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 21:23:11-04

MISSOUL — Missoula County Public School administrators say social distancing, smaller group sizes, and face masks are key for modified commencement for graduating seniors.

And they're hoping for everyone's cooperation to make that work.

Under the Missoula County guidelines, MCPS' three high schools will split their commencement into three, 45-minute ceremonies. And although face masks won't be "required" by the county, they will be "strongly encouraged" by the district.

"We're going to supply face masks for our students," MCPS superintendent Rob Watson said. "We're going to ask that the guests bring their own and we'll have some disposable face masks available for guests that show up and they don't have one. What I want to be real clear about, is that this is a ceremony for the students and their two guests. We want to be welcoming in that regard, but we also want to make sure we're safe."

That means a carefully orchestrated entry and exit. People can take pictures from their seats, but only one professional photographer will be allowed for the graduate closeup. No "parental paparazzi" rushing the stage. There's no handshakes or hugs, and diplomas will be picked up off a table.

"We will send out some precautions that our guests not have traveled for 14-days prior to the ceremony," Watson said. "Not have traveled out-of-state for sure. And then the other thing we will ask is that if they have guests that are in those high risk categories, that they not invite those guests."

Watson reassured trustees Tuesday that staff will be safe as well. And there's always a chance the ceremonies could be canceled if there's a spike in COVID-19 cases.

"We're going to be very flexible," Watson said. "So, at the last second, if we had a spike in cases in Missoula and for some reason we needed to pull back we certainly can do that.

"Not ideal. Not perfect. Definitely not what we've done in the past. But it still gives the graduates that in person ceremony that they're hoping for."

And for those unable to be on the tighter guest list, Watson says arrangements are being made with M-CAT to live stream the ceremonies, which will take place over three successive days, one for each school.