MISSOULA (UPDATE 5/21/2020, 11:34 a.m.) - The Missoula County Public Schools decided Wednesday to have their 2020 high school graduation ceremonies at the Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Friday, June 5.
According to MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson says graduating seniors will be on the field keeping a 6-foot distance from each other.
MCPS is only allowing two guests per graduate. Seating areas will be sectioned off to prevent spreading COVID-19.
Hellgate High School will walk at 9 a.m., Sentinel High School will walk at noon and Big Sky will walk at 3 p.m.
Willard School will walk at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 4.
Seeley-Swan High School will walk at their high school Sunday, May 31.
Graduates will receive a bandana with their school logo on it for a face covering.
MISSOULA- A press conference about graduation plans for Missoula County Public Schools Class of 2020 and University of Montana plans to honor all Missoula County graduates in the Class of 2020 will be held Thursday, May 21 at 11:00 am.
Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson announced that in town high schools, including Willard, Big Sky, Sentinel and Helgate, will be holding their graduation ceremonies in the Washington Grizzly Stadium on the UM campus. Seeley Swan High School will graduate at Seely HS.
“Using the UM venue allowed us to develop a plan to group the attendees and graduates with separate parking and entrances, which was acceptable to the health department,” Watson wrote. “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 2 guests per graduate to be present for the ceremony.”
The full email Superintendent Watson sent to all senior students and their families:
Dear MCPS Seniors and Families,
Thank you for your continued patience regarding our graduation ceremonies. We have completed our plans and submitted to the Missoula City-County Health Department. We received their approval today.
For in town high schools (Willard, Big Sky, Sentinel, and Hellgate) we will use Washington Grizzly Stadium, located on the UM campus. Seeley Swan High School will graduate at Seeley HS. Using the UM venue allowed us 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 2 guests per graduate to be present for the ceremony. We are thankful to President Bodnar, the University of Montana, and the Missoula City-County Health Department for their collaboration and support with this new plan.
We did explore other venues. You may have heard last week that we had been offered the Kettlehouse Amphitheater by the owners of Logjam Presents. We are very thankful for their generosity and support. This beautiful venue would have worked perfectly for a smaller ceremony, but the Washington Grizzly Stadium is more practical for physical distancing for a larger ceremony.
Here is some basic information regarding our ceremonies.
Seeley Swan HS will graduate in their gym on May 31 at 1pm. Details regarding the number of
guests for each student and the safety protocols will be provided by Principal Palmer in the coming
Willard will graduate at Washington Grizzly stadium on Thursday, June 4 at 4pm. Each graduate will
be allowed to bring no more than 2 guests. Graduates will receive more information from Principal
Ritchlin 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. We will plan for our ceremonies to occur on Friday, but please save both days as potential graduation days. We will use the times advertised at the start of the year. Hellgate at 9am, Sentinel at Noon and Big Sky at 3pm. Each graduate will be allowed no more than 2 guests. Details regarding guest tickets will be provided next week.
Please know that our graduation ceremonies are optional. No student is required to attend the ceremony to graduate. Diplomas will be awarded to any student who has successfully completed the minimum MCPS credit requirements, regardless of their decision to participate in the ceremony. Principals will define a method to distribute diplomas at a later date.
If graduates intend to participate, they will be asked to commit. Due to ticketing restrictions we cannot accommodate any last minute decisions or guests. Principals will work out the final details of distributing tickets and the deadline for committing to participate.
We will live stream all ceremonies for those who are unable to attend.
At any time, based on current health data in our community, Missoula City-County Public Health may decide to scale back or postpone our ceremonies. We will keep you posted regarding any changes.
In allowing these ceremonies, we are asking that all graduates and guests comply with the following guidelines. In order to meet the health department requirements, we will need the full cooperation of all graduates and guests:
All graduates will be provided a cloth mask to wear during the ceremony.
Guests are strongly recommended to bring their own cloth mask. We will have a limited number of
disposable masks available at the gate.
We are encouraging graduates and their guests not to travel out-of-state for the 14 days prior to the
Graduates and their guests will be asked to stay home if they are sick. We will be releasing some
guidance regarding a self-check health screening that should be completed before attending the
All in attendance will be asked to follow social distancing guidelines. Markings on the ground will
designate 6ft distances while entering the venue and proceeding to seats. Graduates will be seated
with 6ft between chairs. Guests will be issued assigned seats with 6ft distancing between families.
As student names are called and they cross the stage, we will practice social distancing. Diplomas will
be picked up from a table and no handshakes.
There will be a photographer taking pictures of the graduates as they cross the stage. These pictures
will be provided to graduates at a later date. Guests will be asked to take pictures from their seats
rather than approaching the field or stage.
Guests are asked to bring rain coats and other appropriate outdoor clothing. We will hold and
continue the ceremonies rain or shine. If there is significant weather, lightning or hail, then we may postpone. With the exception of Seeley Lake HS, we have not been approved for an indoor venue for graduation.
The number of speakers and presentations will be limited with the hope of keeping the ceremonies short to accommodate for weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
We will ask that all in attendance avoid congregating in common areas such as the entrances and the parking lots, both before and after the ceremony.
We will all need to exit the venue at the conclusion of the ceremony so that our staff can clean and sanitize between ceremonies.
We appreciate your cooperation in following these guidelines so that all in attendance will be safe and comfortable at the event.
We understand that this graduation will not look like ceremonies of the past. We know the importance of these ceremonies for our students and families. We are striving to plan for meaningful events that maintain the personal safety of students, staff and guests. The limits and requirements that have been set by our health department are designed to protect the health and well-being of our entire community. While we know that the restrictions on our ceremonies are not ideal, we are grateful that we have been allowed to hold in-person ceremonies, something that is not happening in many other parts of our country.
Please watch for further communication next week from administration regarding ceremony details and guest ticket information.
Rob Watson Superintendent