Billings school district still unsure of high school graduation cancellation

Posted at 9:51 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 23:55:03-04

BILLINGS — Billings School District 2 is still unsure whether it will cancel the high school graduation ceremony due to the risk of infection of COVID-19, Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham told trustees at a special meeting held via video call Monday.

“We haven't canceled graduation, nor have we said it is going to occur. But I did open up conversations today with our executive directors and all high school building administrators to say what graduation would look like if we were unable to gather," Upham said.

While the district hasn't made a decision, Upham said at this point, holding the ceremony wouldn't be a good idea.

“When you think about the possibility of 15,000-25,000 people coming together in one day in three different segments, I think it’s probably safe to say that probably is not going to be a good idea going forward. I’m not saying that we’re canceling graduation, but I am opening up conversations with our buildings about what does it look like," Upham said.

Upham said the school district is exploring a virtual component where the names of students will still be read so they can have the recognition they deserve.

Not much has changed as far as the Billings schools operations since last week, Upham said. Teachers are getting a handle on online teaching and are making moves to keep older students engaged, or to stem off senioritis.

“We’re just trying to get better at the platforms we currently have in place. Going further, we are going to have to look at some engagement challenges, especially with our older students as we start to get closer to May," Upham said.

As much as the district has tried to make the sudden shift to online learning, Upham said paper assignments are still being transferred between students and teachers.

“We’ve implored some of those safety practices with the paper exchange on the traditional platform of education. We’re doing as much on the digital side as I think we can. But we still have some traditional paper that is going back and forth. So we wanted to minimize that type of transmission there," Upham said.

He added that the district is working with Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton on how to safely transfer papers.

In the meeting, Upham did not clarify what procedures teachers are following when it comes to the transfer of paper between schools and student homes.

Trustees also read email correspondence sent from Yellowstone County elections officials about the possibility of the May 5 school election being rescheduled for July 7.

In the school election, Billings voters will decide whether to approve an elementary school mill levy totaling $1.6 million. The levy would help to fill an expected $3.6 million dollar shortfall in the elementary school general fund budget.

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