The classes of 2020 celebrated one of the first large gatherings since the COVID-19 pandemic started in mid-March.
Skyview High School held the first of three School District 2 commencement ceremonies at MetraPark First Interstate Arena on Sunday.
Families went through a screening before entering the arena.
"The Skyview graduation I thought went off great," said Dr. Heidi Duncan, Billings Clinic Family Medicine Physician. "Everybody seemed to get the unusual rules and follow them well. It seemed like it went very smoothly."
The county health office put out guidelines.
"When you first come in, we ask if you have any respiratory symptoms," she said. "Then we're doing an infra-red temperature check. And then giving everyone hand sanitizer and a mask as soon as they come in. Once they're in the arena, everybody is sitting apart from each other. The graduates on the floor, as you see, are six feet apart and the guests are spaced out, as well."
"First graduation went really well," said Greg Upham, School District 2 superintendent. "I was really pleased with the way our students and parents socially distanced."
It took about 20 minutes to get all the chairs cleaned up for the next graduation, and it turned out to be a good first event back for MetraPark."
"Boy, when you're in the event business and you don't have any," MetraPark General Manager Bill Dutcher said about the last two months. "To see our maintenance guys back working an event. And that's what's nice, to see that everything can be a success."
Graduation had a different look.
"We will be the class that graduated not with just caps and gowns, but masks too," Ericka Severson said to classmates from the podium.
The 2020 commencement was something new for retiring Skyview Principal Deb Black.
"As Mr. Upham mentioned, this is my last graduation," Black said. "And you guys are my last class and I'm so very happy that we were able to pull this off."
"The kids being together, walking across the stage to get their diplomas, being with their faculty and their parents there, so I think all those important elements are still there," Duncan said.
"It's a big deal and it should be a big deal," Upham said. "There was a lot of emotion in the building today."
"You talk about a hopeful sign," Dutcher said about graduation. "This is what can happen and this is how, when everybody works together, you make it work."
Those attending had reserve seats, so if someone in the arena came down with the cornavirus, it could more easily be determined who had contact with that person.
Skyview started at 9 a.m., Senior at 2 p.m. and West at 7 p.m.
Dutcher said a total of 13,500 will be in the arena for the three ceremonies in a normal year.
This year, the most any graduation had was in the 1,200 range.