GFPS surveying graduates, families about graduation options

Based on community feedback, Great Falls Public Schools is sending out a survey to graduating seniors and their parents today asking them to choose one of three options for graduation ceremonies later this month.

The survey is being sent Friday afternoon and response are due back by noon May 18. The school board is having a special meeting May 18 to discuss graduation, as well as other end of year gatherings at other schools, according to Superintendent Tom Moore.

GFPS releases graduation plans

“There’s a lot of stir out there. We have been listening to you,” Moore said in his Friday update on the GFPS Facebook page. “I understand how important this is to this community.”

The three options graduates and their parents are being asked to consider are:

  • Option A: the current plan of holding graduations as scheduled at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena with graduates only in the building and live streaming the event;
  • Option B: smaller graduations with three per high school limited to 75 graduates per ceremony and seniors can bring up to two family members. Those ceremonies would also be held at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena.
  • Option C: hold graduation outdoors with all the graduates and limit the audience to two guests per graduate. This option has been approved by local health officials, Moore said, but there are variables to that plan such as weather conditions.

Moore said the safety of students and their families, staff and the broader community are paramount to making the decision about graduation ceremonies.

“We have to decide what is right and best here in Great Falls,” Moore said.

Each community in Montana is handling graduation differently based on local conditions and advice from local officials, Moore said.

Moore said in early May, school districts received guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services recommending that indoor graduation ceremonies don’t exceed 250 people.

Since there were about 250 graduates per high school and input from graduates was that they wanted to be all together one last time, Moore said the initial plan was to host graduation ceremonies as scheduled at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena with only graduates and live stream the event for families.

Moore said the district uses the Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena because there’s adequate parking, facilities and air conditioning to handle events of that size.