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Status of Class of 2020 graduation unclear


April 15, 2020

The status of graduation ceremonies across the state is unclear.

Local school officials are unsure of what is going to happen for the 2020 graduation ceremonies.

Three Forks 6-12 Principal Greg Heys said he has been tossing around ideas with the staff and other administrators in the area to come up with the best-case scenario for students who are scheduled to graduate May 24.

Ideas discussed by Heys include hosting "drive-in graduation at a nearby field, changing the date to June and hosting it on a football field, and a virtual ceremony.

"None of them are ideal. Again, right now we are planning and hoping that graduation takes place as originally planned as Governor Bullock hasn't closed schools throughout the rest of the year," he said.

Whitehall Superintendent Hannah Nieskens said she has been attending a weekly webinar with Governor Steve Bullock and at this point he intends to close schools in two-week increments, with announcements made every other Tuesday.

Nieskens said at a certain point it will get into May and the district will have to end the school year with students online or working on packets.

As far as graduation, Nieskens said this will entirely depend on the rules at the time.

She added a shelter in place would make it more difficult for them.

Nieskens said they are able to have a gathering over 10, they have discussed a limited attendance ceremony with families spaced out in the gym. The district has also looked at a completely virtual ceremony that would include pre-recorded speeches with each student individually recognized.

"A decision has not been made regarding graduation. This will depend on the order of the Governor," she said.

A letter sent to District and County Superintendents from the Office of Public Instruction, the Board of Public Education, and the Montana Public Education Center are asking highs schools to not plan large scale ceremonies at this time.

"We encourage you to postpone graduation ceremonies until later in the year or come up with alternative plans to honor your graduates, ensuring equity in recognition for all students, including special education students," the letter states.


Whitehall High School senior Mya Zabala had just wrapped up her career with the cheer team and was looking forward to the last three months of school when things changed quickly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I was so happy I got to finish cheer, but school closing has honestly made me sad," she said. "This really sucks...I don't' like being in the house this much. I really miss my friends and I never thought I'd say this, but I really miss school."

Zabala has been looking forward to being a senior since her first day of high school and thought the year started off great.

"Then the coronavirus hit, and it closed school. It really stinks for all the seniors being at home right now and for the ones who are not getting to do spring sports.

"It makes me sad to see this happen. Your senior year is supposed to be one of the best of your life and it turned to crap. Hopefully, after all this is done, we can start to do some senior things," she said.


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