Belgrade High School’s class of 2020 will end an academic year that has been anything but typical with an appropriately unique graduation ceremony at the end of this month.
The school board last week approved holding the ceremony at Montana State University’s Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman. BHS Principal Paul Lamb said the venue will allow the greatest number of spectators to be present under state and county rules limiting crowd sizes amid Montana’s phased-in reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown.
“There will be a lot more distance between students, and we’ll be allowing four people per graduate” in the stands, Lamb said. MSU will print tickets with seat numbers, so that spectators can more easily find seats and maintain distance from others in attendance. Students must pick up their tickets at the school next week, Lamb said.
The commencement ceremony also will be livestreamed on the “Panther Live” channel on YouTube, Lamb said.
MSU has offered Bobcat stadium for Belgrade and Bozeman high school graduations free of charge. Lamb said the plan to hold the ceremony at Bobcat Stadium, rather than in the Belgrade Special Events Center or BHS stadium, was favored by 60 percent of seniors surveyed.
“They want as many people to be able to attend as possible,” Lamb said.
In addition to being held in a different venue, the ceremony itself will be modified to comply with health department requests, Lamb said. Music will be piped in, rather than performed live by the band and choir. Student speeches will be limited to five minutes in order “to get us in and out as quickly as possible,” Lamb said.
“We are figuring we’ll be done in less than 60 minutes,” he said.
The ceremony is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, May 30, at 2 p.m, but may be held on the 31st in the event of inclement weather. Lamb said the decision will be made Tuesday, based on weekend weather forecasts.
Bobcat Stadium “is the best venue for us to use in this valley,” Lamb said, adding that holding it in the vast facility with the big projection screen in the end zone will provide unique memories for the class of 2020, which has not been able to gather together at school since early March.
“It’s something special that only this class will get,” Lamb said.
Other end-of-year events on the schedule include the BHS annual awards night on Tuesday, May 26. Student scholarship awards will be announced during the virtual event, which will be broadcast over Zoom and on Panther Live from 6-8 p.m.
All new academic materials are being delivered to students by Friday this week. Seniors must complete their work by May 27 in order to graduate. Assignments for freshmen, sophomores and seniors are due by June 3, and June 5 is the official last day of school.