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Education leaders discuss graduation options as pandemic continues

Posted at 5:16 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 18:39:59-04

BOZEMAN — The current pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of all of our lives, and for parents, students and educators, it has a lot of them wondering what high school graduations are going to look like in May.

“Well, it is definitely a celebration but it will be very unique given COVID-19,” said Elsie Arntzen, superintendent for the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI).

OPI is advising public schools to not hold large-scale, in-person graduation ceremonies at this time.

“We’re in a new normal right now, and we don’t know what that means. So under the order of the governor who’s closed our schools, we wanted to make sure that schools had some opportunity to plan for that unique celebration,” Arntzen said.

Bozeman Public School officials are looking at three options.

“The traditional graduation, which looks slimmer and slimmer all the time, and then if a gathering how big of a gathering is going to be allowed? If that rolls back in what number does that look like, so could there be a student-only graduation? And of course, what everyone is planning across the state is that virtual graduation," said Bob Connors, superintendent for Bozeman Public Schools.

While it is unfortunate that students may not experience the traditional high-school graduation, the superintendent says they are still just as qualified for life after high school as anybody else.

“We want to embrace that diploma as yes, these are graduates that may have had a shortened school, normal experience, but remote learning did take place,” Arntzen said.

This is only a recommendation from OPI, and the final decision depends on orders from Governor Bullock and the individual school districts.

Of course no one can predict or see the future, but officials say they will continue to make decisions based on what’s best for everyone.