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MCPS releases additional details about high school graduation plans

Sentinel graduation suprise
Posted at 9:03 AM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 11:03:51-04

MISSOULA — The rules haven't changed but the size of the venue has -- and that's why Missoula County Public Schools' Class of 2020 can enjoy graduation ceremonies.

As MTN News first reported on Wednesday, MCPS will be able to have Commencement for Missoula's seniors after all.

After weeks of uncertainty driven by the pandemic, district administrators have been able to work out graduation, which will look and operate differently, but give all the seniors from Hellgate, Sentinel and Big Sky a chance to graduate at the same time.

As seniors were picking up their caps and gowns today at Sentinel, with a surprise sendoff from teachers, MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson and University of Montana President Seth Bodnar were announcing the details of graduation ceremonies which will be moved to Washington Grizzly Stadium.

"I am honored. And the entire University of Montana is honored to host the graduation ceremonies for our local high school students. Graduation from high school is a big deal. It is a big milestone in the life of a young person,” Bodnar said.

"On the football field, the graduates will sit in chairs, six feet apart in the stadium. What we've done is, we've done a ticketing process with the help of the University of Montana,” Watson explained. “So that guests will be six feet apart in the stands and there will be a row between each guest."

The school district will still be abiding by that 250 person limit set by the Missoula City-County Health Department. But because of the size of Grizzly Stadium, Watson says they'll be able to have blocks of people of 250. That's going to allow each of the schools to have their own commencement ceremony.

"The guests would also be on the east or west side of the stadium, using separate entrances. The guest groups would also be 250 on both sides,” Watson said. “And that was acceptable to the health department, as long as maintain separate entrances and exits."

Seniors will be given these special, one-of-a-kind face masks for each school. Guests will be asked to wear their own, all in the interest of safety. Watson expects the stadium costs to be about the same as what MCPS has paid to rent the Adams Center in recent years.

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.