EAST HELENA- Voters will decide on the fate of East Helena’s proposed high school on May 8, but before the decision can be made, plans must be drawn up for the school.

SMA Architects began the initial steps Thursday by working with East Helena board members, teachers, and others to hear what they want from a new school.

“Our goal was to get the big picture of what’s important to the East Helena School District and the East Helena High School,” Klint Fisher, Principal Architect for SMA Architects, said.

SMA Architects, the Helena firm behind other new school projects around Helena, is in the programming stage for the high school. Fisher compared the programming stage to gathering ingredients before baking.

Story continues below

This early in the game, the conversations are largely conceptual: what would make East Helena High School a great school? What would the school mean to the students?

Some suggested a new school is an opportunity to embrace the arts. Others saw it as a chance for more competitive sports. Common requests also included flexible work areas, cutting-edge technology, and community partnerships.

The school district also isn’t sure where a new high school might be built. According to East Helena Schools Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer, the district has managed to narrow in down from 12 possible lots to around three or four. Whitmoyer said the district would further narrow the list, prioritizing the locations in order of desirability.

Karen Goldsberry, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said a school that brings everyone together is top of mind for her and others.

“We want the sense of community. That’s what started us seven years ago, and that’s what the theme is still today,” Goldsberry said.

Clint, along with an employee from NAC Architecture from Seattle also working on the project, listened intently to the opinions expressed by those at the meeting.

“Relationships and community…I think that’s what is really going to drive this project forward,” Clint said.