The parent of one Billings high school senior said Tuesday she feels left out in the cold after hearing Billings School District 2's plan for graduation includes keeping friends and family out of the ceremony.
"If they just walk across the stage and they do the groups of ten, I think it's really bothersome to me that I won't be able to watch her. So it does hurt as a parent. But what do you do?" said Liv Nafts, whose daughter Nicole will graduate from Billings Skyview High School this year.
Liv is the mother of three girls. Her youngest, Nicole, didn't have the same senior year as her two older sisters due to COVID-19. And her graduation ceremony will look much different too.
"Watching my sisters grow up and getting (to do) everything they got to do. Walking across the stage at the Metra, having all the friends and family of everyone there. And now we don't even get that. We might be walking across the stage at Skyview in groups of 10, not having family or anyone there. It's just different because I don't get to do the things they got to do," Nicole said.
The senior has been trying to stay in touch with her friends over the course of the switch to online teaching. The class of 2020 will likely miss out on a large ceremony, which normally serves as a bookend where grads say goodbye to friends for the last time.
“My friends kind of feel the exact same way I do. We talk about it, not being able to get to see all of the kids we grew up with since elementary school or middle school. Or the ones we met in high school. We won’t be able to be together in one big group for a final time," Nicole said.
The preliminary plan for the graduation ceremony is flexible and is open to suggestions from district officials, Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham said at a board meeting Monday. Especially if Montana Gov. Steve Bullock softens group gathering restrictions across the state.
If restrictions are loosened, there is a possibility for more than 10 students graduating at a time, and parents may be allowed to attend.
In the mean time, Liv understands that keeping family members out of the ceremony is for the best, but that doesn't make it an easier pill to swallow.
“It hurts, but they’re doing it for safety and I understand that. But it hurts me, and it hurts her, and it hurts her older sisters not watching her walk. But you can’t do anything about it," Liv said.
The class of 2020 missed out on the majority of spring activities: prom, graduation parties and senior picnics. Nicole told next year's graduating class to make the most of every moment.
“This is like the last time you’ll be able to be with all of your friends that you’ve known for a really long time. You won’t realize it’s gone. The last football game you’ll have standing in the student section. And being on the senior rail signing your name and all of that kind of stuff … I didn’t realize it would be that much fun but I absolutely loved it. And I’m going to miss it quite a bit,” she said.