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Bozeman High School plans to hold graduation June 7 at Montana State University’s Bobcat Stadium, the biggest venue in town, to allow greater social distancing and avoid an outbreak of the coronavirus.

“I’m excited,” Bozeman School Superintendent Bob Connors said Wednesday. “We got the seniors together one last time.”

Connors said MSU President Waded Cruzado graciously donated use of the stadium to the school for free.

He said he made the decision after meetings with Gallatin City-County Health officer Matt Kelley, the city mayor and police chief, police officers who work in the schools, and several MSU facilities, ticket sales and other officials.

School leaders had floated the idea of using Bozeman High’s new Van Winkle football stadium, but social distancing would work better at the larger Bobcat Stadium.

“Somehow, some way, we wanted to end the year in normalcy,” Connors said, though this graduation won’t look very normal.

The plan is to allow only two guests for each of the 500 or so graduating seniors, which is all the Health Department would allow, Connors said. The two guests would have reserved seats together in the stadium, separated from other guests by four empty seats.

Seniors would sit 6 feet apart on the field. Wearing masks will be recommended though not required.

It will be a quick ceremony, starting at 2 p.m., with no band or choir.

Graduates’ names will be announced and displayed on the big football screen.

But seniors won’t walk up to shake hands with dignitaries to receive their diplomas.

“Oh, gosh no,” Connors said. Instead graduates will pick up their diplomas from tables in the North End Zone.

There will be no practice ceremony on the Thursday before the Sunday ceremony.

Families will probably be upset by the limit to two guests, but the event will be streamed live on Facebook and carried on a high school federation site.

“It’s all weather-dependent and COVID-19 dependent,” Connors said. “With the pandemic, it could be shut down at any time.”

He added he hopes that private at-home graduation parties “will be kept to a manageable size and we won’t have a spike” in virus cases.

While Bozeman is planning a single graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020, Missoula high schools may break their classes into several ceremonies so that no more than 250 people congregate at each one.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.