EAST HELENA – After months of study, East Helena School Board members selected the name for East Helena’s newest school.

The new name “Prickly Pear Elementary” was selected on Monday.

Crews broke ground on the construction site back in June, but the school was nameless – until now.

Keith Obert, a former history teacher, was selected as the chair of the committee tasked with conducting research on a potential name.

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“What we were looking for is something that is unique to East Helena and something that has some historical significance and something that the people of east Helena can say “that is East Helena,’” Obert said.

Originally, Obert’s committee received 70 suggestions from community members and students. However, not all of them had potential. The committee judged the names based on categories like historical significance, the relevance to East Helena and the uniqueness of the name.

Eventually, the committee narrowed the list to three: Sleeping Giant, Creekside and Prickly Pear.

“It was even tough to decide between three,” Obert siad. “Lower elementary [children] loved Sleeping Giant. Creekside was kind of the safe one. No plus or minuses. It was just a nice name.”

After Obert presented his findings, East Helena Public Schools Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer cautioned the board to keep an open mind before making a decision, especially after a Great Falls school board trustee resigned in September amid a disagreement about the naming of an elementary school. Ultimately, the East Helena School board made a choice and voted in favor of Prickly Pear Elementary.

In the survey sent out to pick between the three, Prickly Pear and Creekside led, with Sleeping Giant getting the lowest amount of the 1,800 votes gathered.

“Prickly Pear is a major portion of this community. It runs through the heart and soul of this community. It has been tied to Asarco over the years. It’s just, it’s East Helena,” Obert said.

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