East Helena prepares for vote on high school

Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-20 19:43:33-04

On May 8th, voters in the East Helena School District will make the final decision on whether to build a high school of their own.

Reporter Jonathon Ambarian takes a closer look at what effects the decision could have, both for East Helena and for Helena.

(APRIL 16, 2018) East Helena residents had another chance Monday night to ask questions about a possible new high school, ahead of an upcoming bond vote.

The East Helena School District held a community update meeting at East Valley Middle School. Leaders provided more detailed breakdowns of the costs district voters would pay for a high school. They also highlighted updated three-dimensional computer renderings of what a school could look like.

The district has proposed a $29.5 million bond issue that would pay for a new school. It comes after an initial vote last year, in which voters authorized the district to investigate building a high school of its own.

During Monday’s meeting, supporters of building a high school said it could bring additional opportunities for East Helena students, and that it would give East Helena residents a stronger voice in how classes are run.

But others raised questions about whether the district had fully accounted for the costs of a high school, and whether a new school could offer as many programs as the high schools in the Helena School District, where East Helena students currently go.

District leaders have held a number of community meetings since the bond was proposed, to talk to residents about their questions and concerns.

“We’re going to have to look at people in the eye after this is all said and done and be able to explain the decisions that were made,” said Scott Walter, chair of the East Helena school board. “That’s the reason why we have to just make this as transparent as possible, make it as open as we possibly can, go ahead and take the hard questions, try to answer them the best we can.”

Walter said, regardless of what decision voters make, he hopes there will be a strong turnout.

“We really hope that they’ll take that ballot, become as informed as possible, and then turn that ballot in right away, so that we can get a clear message from the community of whether or not they want to have an East Helena high school,” he said.

The district will mail out ballots for the bond vote next Monday. They must be returned to the district office by May 8.

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