Graduation festivities tweaked in Troy amid pandemic

| May 22, 2020 8:28 AM

The lack of handshakes and hugs at this year’s Troy High School graduation ceremony might end up the biggest departure from past observations of the rite of passage for the senior class.

“It’s going to look pretty similar to other graduations,” said Jacob Francom, superintendent of the Troy School District. “We’ve done it outside in the past.”

District officials developed guidelines for the event in conjunction with the Lincoln County Health Department. Onlookers will be given assigned seats and grouped so as to allow for social distancing requirements.

Hand sanitizer will be on hand and mobile hand-washing stations will be brought in for the event, Francom said. Those that want to wear masks can do so, he said.

Officials will stream the event on YouTube for the benefit of those who opt against attending or cannot because they live out of state. And the district’s public announcement setup ought to make it hard for anyone in town to miss out on the ceremony.

“Our sound system is so powerful most people could probably sit in their home in Troy and hear it pretty easily,” Francom said.

In a departure from county recommendations, the district will allow each student to distribute eight tickets to the ceremony. While county officials advised capping the number at four, Francom said the small size of Troy’s graduating class — just 29 students will walk — allowed for the larger ratio.

In Libby, which will see roughly double the number of seniors graduate, restrictions on the number of onlookers allowed per student has lead to headaches for administrators. Officials there decided to stick with four tickets per graduating senior despite pressure from community members to loosen attendance restrictions.

Back in Troy, Francom said he has mostly heard encouragement from members of the community, who are largely just happy to mark the occasion.

“I think people have been pretty glad we can actually do something,” he said. “If people need more tickets we can work with them on that, too. That’s not something we want people to be upset about.”

Ushers will be on hand to help people enter and exit the high school football stadium in a safe manner, but Francom said they will not police people when it comes to social distancing.

“Like we’ve heard from law enforcement, we’re not out there to patrol social distancing,” he said. “We’re just going to try to do the best we can.”

Banners also have gone up in Troy — as they have in Libby — celebrating the high school’s graduating class.

In a departure from years past, the district will host a senior night for the graduating class. Scheduled for the week prior to the ceremony, the event gives seniors a chance to enjoy a group dinner, play games and say goodbye to their teachers and other district employees.

“The end of the year is not what they expected, but Troy still had prom — although it was really hard for them to lose out on the spring sports,” said Principal Christina Schertel.

She said the seniors are happy to be able to participate in a graduation ceremony with a semblance of normalcy.

“They are just grateful they are getting to walk across the stage and families are grateful,” she said. “They just want to be together on the same day, to be in the same spot. It is huge for them.”