(EAST HELENA) Voters in the East Helena School District have decided to keep pursuing a high school of their own.

Almost 68 percent of voters approved a ballot measure authorizing district leaders to start researching the feasibility of building a new high school.

“It’s pretty clear what the community has asked us to do,” said Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer. “So now it’s up to us to follow their direction and quickly and efficiently to begin this process of researching what this would mean to our community.”

The school board will have now two years to put together a bond proposal, put it before voters and get their approval again. If a bond doesn’t pass in that time, the district will not be able to consider building a high school again for at least five years.

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Whitmoyer said about 55 percent of registered voters in the district returned a ballot.

“I’m excited that people took the time and the interest in this topic to come out and hit the polls,” he said.

The vote was made possible when state lawmakers approved Senate Bill 139 earlier this year. The bill created a process for elementary school districts with more than 1,000 students to expand into K-12 districts. East Helena is one of three districts in the state that meet the requirements, along with Lockwood near Billings and Hellgate in Missoula.

Lockwood School District voters also approved researching a high school in Tuesday’s election.

Whitmoyer said the East Helena School District will continue to consult residents as leaders take the next steps toward a possible new high school.

“All of the details — where the school would go, how much it would cost, what it would cost on a $100,000 house — all of those things will be explored in earnest quickly, and hopefully in a way that the community can watch and listen and see what’s going on, and more importantly participate,” said Whitmoyer.

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