Libby School Board takes first look at possible graduation plan

| May 8, 2020 8:48 AM

Members of the Libby Public School Board on May 4 got a first look at a potential plan to use a streaming service, tickets and the high school track and football field to host graduation ceremonies this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended graduation planning much the same as it has disrupted high school athletics and other end of year events. In Libby, Superintendent Craig Barringer vowed to mark the occasion, but until recently officials had not revealed any plans for doing so.

With social distancing requirements and limits on the size of public gatherings likely to remain in place beyond May 30, the traditional gathering of students, arranged and seated in rows, with friends and relatives looking on, seems impossible.

Instead, administrators pitched a plan that will see students seated six feet apart on the high school track. A stage on the 50-yard-line of the football field will host, at most, four individuals, to include the Class of 2020 valedictorian and salutatorian.

Under the proposal, each student will receive four tickets to give to relatives. Families and onlookers will be grouped together in fours on the stands.

Officials are still deciding whether to assign seating or allow it on a first-come-first-serve basis. Regardless, out-of-town visitors will be barred from attending under the plan, as will anyone — student or onlooker — feeling ill at the time of the ceremony.

Entry and exit from the football field will be staggered, officials said.

They do not plan on requiring masks for attendance, but expect to have a supply handy for anyone who wants to don the protective gear. Hand sanitizer will be distributed around the facility.

Handshakes will be disregarded this year, officials said.

For those who cannot attend the ceremony, administrators hope to partner with a streaming service to broadcast the event online. Any costs will be covered by donations, officials said.

Details about the traditional processional march are still being worked out, officials said. Parents may be encouraged to mark the occasion by erecting yard signs featuring their graduates, though there remains the possibility that banners could go up along California and Mineral avenues in the lead up to the event.

Officials also are weighing the idea of erecting posters featuring an image of each graduating senior so that students could pose for photographs with their families.

The event is scheduled to occur rain or shine. Administrators said they are reaching out to parents to arrange for tents in case of adverse weather.

There were few critiques from board members about the proposal, but Vice Chair George Woodruff asked that staff make sure to get the procedures — once finalized — published in the local newspapers.

“We always think the people know, but they don’t always know. They need to understand what it looks like and what they need to do,” he said. “At some point, we need to have a protocol people can understand and [act] on.”

District staff have since posted a flyer with information pertaining to the event on the high school’s Facebook page.