Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham said Tuesday he's happy with the way high school graduation turned out over the weekend inside the First Interstate Arena, and he's now looking toward summer school starting June 8.
“It was a very spectacular event and I thought we did a really nice job of making it safe. I was extremely impressed with our students. They responded to everything that we asked. The parents responded to everything we asked," Upham said.
It was a true community effort to make the three ceremonies for the Billings high schools come together. Upham thanked the Billings Clinic infectious disease specialists, MetraPark staff, school staff and other community members for their help.
Upham said for the most part, parents and students willingly followed procedures for social distancing and sanitation. Billings Clinic staff suggested one change between Skyview's and Senior's ceremonies: more teachers to police social distancing between students at their designated entrance.
"That was really the only adjustment that we made all day. The students were outstanding. They just did everything we asked. I’m sure it was extremely uncomfortable wearing the masks the entire time, but they did a great job,” Upham said.
With graduation out of the way, the district is looking ahead to summer school. The first session of summer school for high school students is scheduled to start in about two weeks.
Extra help for kindergarten through eighth grade is still in the works, but should be expected later in the summer, Upham said.
“We’re looking at offering some summer support with K-5 and 6-8. We haven’t planned that out yet, but that’s what we’re going to try to do with some of that CARES Act (federal coronavirus relief aid) money that we receive," Upham said.
The Billings school district is expecting to receive about $6 million from the federal CARES Act, which was signed into law in March. That money must be spent on COVID-19-related expenses like sanitation, personal protective equipment or learning help for students.
The district already has some expenses to be paid with the CARES Act money. Upham said he expects the money to be available soon.
“I think fairly soon we should be able to gain access to that. We’ve stacked some expenditures with cleaning and copying and personal protective equipment, those kinds of things. And then this is the week that everyone turns their devices back in. We have 5,000 out there. I’m holding my breath as they come back in. I’m hoping all 5,000 come back and they’re usable. That could be a large dollar item if they don’t come back in good shape," Upham said.