The lack of clarity for Montana’s public schools as to whether students will return to class before the end of the school year has caused the Montana Office of Public Instruction to offer guidance on possible options for graduation.

Dylan Klapmeier, spokesman for Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said on Friday that her office has received many inquiries about what the rest of the school year holds.

“The OPI and our various education partners have received many inquiries from school leaders on our opinion of how the rest of the school year is going to go,” said Klapmeier. “We know that the Governor’s stay at home order is in place until April 24th and they may or may not be extended after that based on the guidance he gets from health professionals, however, we cannot imagine a scenario where in the month of May and June and potentially longer than that social distancing isn’t going to be required. If that is the case then traditional graduation ceremonies and a return to the classroom are very unlikely.”

Klapmeier said in that case, graduation will look different for every community in the state.

“School districts across the country are doing different things such as virtual graduation ceremonies, bringing in keynote speakers to address students through Zoom or other platforms,” he said. “Of course this doesn’t affect the actual graduation status of seniors and they will still receive their diplomas, however the tradition graduation ceremony is one of the most important life events for most families.”

In a letter to Montana’s public schools, Superintendent Arntzen wrote, “We encourage you to postpone graduation ceremonies until later in the year or come up with alternative plans to honor your graduates, ensuring equity in recognition for all students, including special education students.’

Klapmeier said the University of Montana announced several weeks ago that they were cancelling their 2020 commencement exercises for the first time in the school’s history, and there were some suggestions on how to honor college graduates in that story on the KGVO website.