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Outdoor graduation ceremonies set

by Hilary Matheson
Daily Inter Lake | May 12, 2020 1:00 AM

Flathead and Glacier high school graduation ceremonies will be held outdoors with a limited number of guests allowed in order to follow social distancing guidelines.

Rain or shine, the Class of 2020 will cross the stage to receive diplomas in separate ceremonies at Legends Stadium. Each student will be given two tickets for guests to attend.

“We heard loud and clear from the school community both at Flathead and Glacier that we want to honor our seniors,” said Flathead Principal Michele Paine. “Contrasting with that are the health guidelines of Flathead City-County Health Department.”

Hoping to have an in-person graduation, Paine said last week the schools received the health department’s blessing to have a shortened outdoor ceremony to award diplomas.

Flathead’s graduation will be at 6 p.m. May 29. Glacier’s graduation begins at 11 a.m. May 30.

The ceremonies are optional for students to attend and will be livestreamed online at www.sd5.k12.mt.us.

Both ceremonies will be shorter than in previous years and student speeches and music performances will not be live, but instead, will be prerecorded in a video and uploaded to each school’s website for anyone to view. It was important to the high schools to retain that element of honoring and inspiring students.

“You know, it’s going to be different. It’s going to be a simple diploma awarding ceremony. Normally, what happens is you get your diploma, there’s a handshake and someone turns your tassel. We’re paring that down. We’ll hand out diplomas and we’ll turn tassels as a group,” Paine said, which means limiting touching.

“It was a compromise,” Glacier High School Principal Micah Hill added, when balancing the desires of students and families with safety and health.

“We had a lot of feedback. Kids and parents are very excited and grateful to have this opportunity,” he said.

One of those students is Flathead senior Jalen Hawes, who said having an in-person component shows how much staff and the community care about students.

“And they’re willing to do that, with what will probably be a pain — for the happiness of their students,” Hawes said.

Hawes said seniors and their families value the tradition that graduation represents as an important milestone.

On graduation day, guests will be directed to sit in bleachers that will be marked in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Students are also asked to follow social distancing guidelines when they arrive and line up. Staff will be on-site to guide students since there will not be prior rehearsals. Students will then be seated in chairs set up on the field.

There are 318 Flathead students and 308 Glacier students set to graduate.

In organizing the event, which is typically held in the gyms of the respective schools, Paine noted it just wasn’t possible to accommodate the number of guests and graduates that usually attend and still follow social distancing requirements. At Flathead High School alone, this can reach more than 2,500 people.

“It’s a big group,” Paine said, which is why attendance is limited.

Administrators from across the state have participated in virtual meetings to share information, questions and ideas on handling remote learning and milestone events such as graduation since schools closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

The Crosstown Craze after-graduation party, traditionally held at The Summit, has been canceled, but a raffle celebration will be held as an Instagram Live event that begins at 7 p.m. May 30 where grand prizes including a car, courtesy of Corwin Motors, and a $500 and $1,000 cash prize will be announced.

Students wishing to participate in the raffles need a ticket, which costs $25. The deadline to purchase tickets is May 22. Tickets may be purchased at myschoolfees.com. Flathead students may also purchase tickets at the school office.