Jefferson High School graduates will have an in-person ceremony this year, to be held on the football field with a limited number of family members present.
The ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, May 31 at 1 p.m.
JHS Principal Mike Moodry said the plans evolved since Gov. Steve Bullock closed schools in March due to COVID-19, and had at one time included the possibility of hosting the ceremony with graduates in their cars on the parking lot.
“To be honest, my initial thoughts in the middle of March were we may not be able to have a ceremony until next year,” he said.
In the end, school personnel developed a plan as the pandemic changed, with input from the School Board, students, the county health department and parents, said Moodry.
Seniors have mixed views about the plans.
I know a lot of people didn’t want to sit in their cars for graduation, so they proposed the football field ceremony,” said senior Josiah Williams.
“I’m sure most of the seniors would rather graduate in the gym normally. Unfortunately, this pandemic is forcing us to do things differently,” said Williams.
Senior Jadyn Bellander said that many of her classmates initially objected to the limited number of guests, but felt that school officials listened to their concerns as those were increased.
Otherwise, Bellander thinks that her class is fortunate to have an in-person ceremony.
“I’m grateful it’s in person and I don’t have to choose between family members,” she said.
The preliminary guidelines, sent to families last week, allow for up to four family members to attend the in-person ceremony, and they will be seated in the stadium bleachers following social distancing guidelines.
Also, after receiving requests from a senior class meeting and some correspondence from parents, two more family members will be allowed to watch the ceremony online while seated either on the practice field or in the south gym, said Moodry.
Out-of-state family members must be in Montana by May 17 and quarantine for 14-days before being allowed to attend, according to the guidelines.
Moodry said the school is relying on the families of graduates and their civic-mindedness to adhere to the 14-day quarantine, which is designed to protect public health.
Each family member will need to present a ticket to enter the stadium.
For those unable to attend, the graduation will be broadcast by Elkhorn Radio via Jefferson County Radio and Youtube Live.
The valedictorian and salutatorian will give their speeches from a stage set up on the side of the field opposite the seating area. Graduates will be spaced out on the field, according to a diagram provided by the school.
Graduates will pick up their diplomas on the stage, but without contact with teachers or administrators.
The graduates will be photographed during the process and family members can take photos from their seats.
The traditional rose ceremony is still on, as it is a way for graduates to acknowledge those who had influenced their lives, said Moodry.
This year it will also be used as an opportunity for the students and their families to exit safely, he said.
Eighth grade graduations
Boulder and Clancy elementary schools are still working on plans for the eighth grade graduation, while Montana City has devised a plan that includes several components, but no in-person ceremony.
The eighth grade graduation reception and the trip to Fairmont was cancelled, however, according to Montana City School K-2 and 6-8 Principal Daryl Mikesell.
“I understand this isn’t the news parents want to hear regarding the 8th grade celebration,” said Mikesell in an update to school families.
To celebrate the event, the plans include yard signs and individual videos. The yard signs, each with a photo of a graduate, will be placed at the school along McClellan Creek Road. The cost to cover the signs comes from monies leftover from previous graduation fundraisers, so parents will not need to cover the expense, according to the update.
Parents are being asked to provide photos for individualized videos, which will be provided to families as a keepsake, as well as being posted to Facebook.
Basin School usually allows its sixth graders to ring the bell and have a barbecue to celebrate the transition to Boulder Elementary. The school is looking to do that in the summer, said Basin Supervising Teacher Stephanie Listoe.