Missoula County Public Schools have always used the University of Montana for graduation exercises, but this year, not at the Adams Center, but instead, inside Washington Grizzly Stadium.

At a press conference inside the University of Montana Champions Center, MCPS Superintendent Dr. Rob Watson and UM President Seth Bodnar shared the graduation plans with local media.

“One of the requirements that we agreed to with the health department is that we would try to keep our crowd size down,” said Dr. Watson. “The graduation ceremonies will include all the graduates on the field spaced six feet apart and then each graduate would be allowed to bring no more than two guests.”

Watson said all of the guests and the graduates will be required to wear masks, with the students receiving masks with a special feature.

“We ordered special masks that are only for our graduates so they will become collector’s items,” he said. “We’ll have different masks for Hellgate, Sentinel and Big Sky, as well as Willard and Seeley Swan High School. Since our graduates will be wearing masks, we’re asking all guests to wear masks, as well.”

Watson was asked if utilizing Washington Grizzly Stadium will be an extra cost to the school district.

“The cost of the Adams Center last time I asked was about $12,000, and that’s not just for the center,” he said. “It’s also for all the support that goes with it. We actually get the Adams Center for three days, one for set up and take down, and we also conduct a ceremony for Willard Alternative High School and the adult high school graduation so it’s a multi-day thing. What I’ve been assured of and what I believe is that our costs are not going to be any different with this venue.”

The ceremonies will be held on June 5, with Hellgate at 9:00 a.m., Sentinel and noon and Big Sky at 3:00 p.m. There will also be a special ceremony for Willard students on Thursday, June 4th at 4:00 p.m.

UM President Seth Bodnar said that access to the stadium and the graduation ceremonies will be controlled by the use of tickets, much like Grizzly football tickets, to each event. This will help the health department to determine who was sitting where in the stadium in case contact tracing is required due to an outbreak of COVID 19.