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West High graduation

An overview of the West High graduation at MetraPark in 2017.

REBECCA NOBLE, Gazette Staff

Expect tighter security at MetraPark for high school graduations this year. 

The annual Sunday extravaganza, with graduation ceremonies for West, Senior and Skyview high schools, will still happen on May 27. But new security rules will ban objects like backpacks and purses.

School District 2's emergency preparedness director Mark Wahl, who recently took on security duties in addition to activities, said that recent concerns about security sparked by a school shooting in Florida were "absolutely" a factor. 

"We just wanted to be a little more safe," he said.

The district announced the changes in an emailed newsletter from Superintendent Terry Bouck on Tuesday. 

The Metra is in the process of developing a three-tiered security system for events, he said, and SD2 asked for recommendations for a "moderate" security level. 

That entails banning "large bags, backpacks or purses" and weapons, including anything covered by concealed carry permits. Items like small clutch bags and clear plastic bags and purses will be allowed, along with "medically necessary items."

Metra employees will staff a bag check at entry doors to the arena. Parents and guests are expected to enter the arena through the main lobby, and graduates and SD2 staff are expected to use the lower level arena entrance. 

The doors open one hour in advance of each graduation ceremony. 

"(The Metra) assured us they could get everyone through in that time. I don't think there will be long lines," Wahl said. 

  • For West's 10 a.m. ceremony, doors open at 9 a.m.
  • For Skyview's 2 p.m. ceremony, doors open at 1 p.m.
  • For Senior's 6 p.m. ceremony, doors open at 5 p.m.

The new rules also include a list of banned items:

  • Bullhorns, whistles or other noisemakers
  • Confetti
  • Inflatables like beach balls
  • Pets or animals except service animals
  • Outside food or beverages

The Metra recently beefed up security at concerts. For a December show, the Foo Fighters required the venue have metal detectors at doors, which was a first for the Metra. Officials said that the detectors are likely to be used again. 

This story previously incorrectly stated the date of graduation ceremonies. The date is Sunday, May 27.

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.