Officials with School District 2 weren't quite sure how holding graduation ceremonies for all three Billings public high schools would go on Sunday, but it didn't take long for them to find out.
Not long after the day's first ceremony, which began at 10 a.m. for Senior High, ended, and as hundreds of recent grads whooped and hollered on their way out from the MetraPark parking lot, staff got to work setting everything up for the next one.
"It's just gone very well," said Kathy Olson, one of SD2's executive directors of school leadership support. "We were cleaned up and cleared out from the first one within 15 minutes and ready for the next one."
In years past, SD2 held two graduations on Sunday and the third on Memorial Day. This is the first year it has held the ceremonies for Senior, West and Skyview highs on the same day.
Superintendent Terry Bouck said that move saves the school district a little cash, but also allows everyone involved to have the Memorial Day holiday off and lets organizers of all-night sober graduation parties share resources.
Sunday was Bouck's first graduation ceremony as district superintendent. After the second ceremony, at 2 p.m. for West High, he said he was impressed with how smoothly everything went.
"This has been very well-organized," he said. "I can tell you it’s about as good as it gets in terms of graduations. The young students are absolutely great as far as their presentations and their speeches and everything. I’m very impressed."
About 1,200 students graduated from the three high schools on Sunday. Billings Central Catholic High also held its graduation ceremony on Sunday at the Ralph Nelles Activity Center on the school grounds.
Robert Trimble, MetraPark's events coordinator, said having all three graduations on the same day didn't change preparations at all but did affect when they had to be done.
"It's just condensing for a one day event instead of spreading it over two days," he said.
After each graduation ceremony, staff would take down the school's decorations from the stage on the Rimrock Auto Arena floor and put up the decorations for the next high school.
After Senior's graduation, Donna Schlepp, secretary to West High Principal Dave Cobb, placed trays filled the roughly 450 diplomas for West's grads onto tables on the stage.
She said that she was sold on the idea of holding all of the ceremonies on the same day after seeing how easy the transition was, even with a little concern over extra traffic in the Metra parking lots.
"It's just slick," she said. "I thought, 'Wow, maybe we should've been doing this the whole time.'"