BILLINGS - After much discussion with parents and community health partners, Billings School District 2 officials are changing up the way the 2021 graduation ceremonies at MetraPark will go off, this time with more guests.
Superintendent Greg Upham said Monday that the district will do away with a ticket system that only allowed six guests in attendance with a graduate.
“We were looking at the status of the virus and you know I was keeping an open mind,” he said.
Upham said he’s been in constant talks with Billings Clinic doctors, Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton, and others with the Unified Health Command about electing to open the event up to more guests.
“We aren't going to take tickets. We aren't going to limit. However, we've asked families to, you know, choose essential. Essential family members and essential guests,” he said.
He also says he hopes people will still use vigilance as the county continues to fight through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We're still in a pandemic, you know, we're not completely out of this but we recognize the importance of graduation in Billings, Montana and we want to try to accommodate,” said Upham.
Those with MetraPark will still do sanitary cleaning after each ceremony, giving crews roughly two hours to get the place back into tip-top shape before another senior class comes in with family.
“We will be doing the normal enhanced cleaning we have been doing to make the facility available for the event,” said Ray Massie with MetraPark on Monday.
The new CDC guidelines on mask-wearing that’s just recently been reviewed and released is another reason Upham says the district felt comfortable moving ahead with more people.
“Watching the status of the virus and what's going on and the new CDC guidelines that came out, assisted with that. And so, you know, we use all those, those factors to determine our decision,” he said.
He says students will still be wearing masks on the floor and so will school staff.
“For those that aren't vaccinated, we ask that they please mask and physical distance to their ability. We've asked families to sit in family pods in the Metra, distance themselves as far as possible. We'll have additional disinfecting stations there. So yeah, we're doing the best we can to accommodate kind of where we are as we evolve out of the virus,”
Graduation day for all three billings public high schools is set for Sunday, May 30 at MetraPark.
West High graduation begins at 10 a.m. Skyview begins at 2 p.m. And Senior High will wrap the day up with graduation beginning at 6 p.m.