BOZEMAN, Mont. - Bozeman High School will graduate the class of 2014 this Sunday, and this year there are some changes to the program.
Friends and family will be watching graduates receive diplomas outdoors at Bozeman High's Van Winkle Stadium. The ceremony is traditionally held at Montana State University's Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, but renovations at the Brick forced school officials to move the ceremony.
Bozeman High Activities Director Randy Russell tells us it's exciting to have graduation outside at the school.
NBC Montana looked into graduation numbers and efforts to keep students from dropping out before they earn that diploma.
Graduation is a time to reflect on another passing school year, and look forward to the years to come.
Bozeman High School Principal Kevin Conwell said the school is, "Trying to address the needs of all students while giving the best education that we can."
Bozeman High will say goodbye to 443 students on Sunday, around three dozen more than last year. In the fall the school will welcome more than 530 freshmen.
"We're continuing to grow as a school," said Conwell.
That growth means more work to keep class sizes manageable and kids in school.
"Whatever we can do to try and increase the graduation rate," said Conwell, "and decrease the drop out rate."
Graduation and dropout rates have been fluctuating at Bozeman High School for the past several years. Graduation rates have been between 84 and 86.5 percent since 2011. Dropout rates have varied between 2.7 and 4.2 percent.
The numbers are right around the state average. Conwell expects similar numbers this year.
"Given what's transpired over the course through the year, I would anticipate that we're going to be in that same range," he said.
To help keep students engaged and on track, Bozeman High School looked at how class schedules are structured and teaching staff, as well as offering the Bridger Alternative Program, a program that offers smaller classes and more attention.
Conwell explained, "To give students who may not have been successful in a traditional high school setting a chance -- a second chance at high school education."
Around 25 to 30 students graduating this year come from this program. Those students are counted as part of overall Bozeman High School graduating class.
Conwell tells us this weekend will mark a great opportunity for all students, "to get out and celebrate a wonderful accomplishment and launch them into the next phase in their life."
Bozeman is part of Graduation Matters Montana, a state initiative to ensure students graduate high school ready for college and the workforce.
The program was launched in 2010, Bozeman joined in 2011.