HELENA – Voters will decide in a matter of months whether or not to build a high school in East Helena. On Tuesday, the community got a closer look at what that school could look like.
The 104,000 sq. ft. building will have room for up to 614 students, though East Helena Schools Superintend Ron Whitmoyer said it won’t be at that capacity anytime soon.
In addition to the two-story building, the campus will include a full football field, a track and two practice fields. However, it’s what’s inside the school that has parents like Tricia Haines excited for her children who may eventually attend the high school.
“It’s super exciting for my kids. I have kids that are very much into robotics and engineering so the fact that there was space for the CTE classes, that was really exciting for me as a parent,” Haines said.
Klint Fisher, Principal Architects with SMA Architects, said it’s that kind of community feedback that shaped their design of the building.
“[The community] is vital in this process for us to get the information of what’s really important for East Helena and for their students. We don’t design the building. We facilitate the community designing the building,” Fisher said.
The school is also designed with the East Helena landscape in mind, using materials and dimensions that resemble Main Street. SMA said the school is meant to feel like a miniature East Helena and have a strong community feel. Rather than a main entrance, the architects call the front doors the “front porch.”
“I like the front porch idea and it being very welcoming to the community. I think they’ve done a really good job and the first preliminary drawings and images I think are on the right track,” Haines said.
The East Helena School District announced this week that Dartman Field is the preferred location for the proposed High School. Whitmoyer said the opportunity to acquire the property came up suddenly, so the board had to act fast.
After the presentation Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to move forward with the plan to acquire more land on Dartman Field if possible. Because the plot of land is not adjacent to other school district property, voters will also need to approve the purchase of the land. Whitmoyer said if the school bond is approved, another proposal will immediately be placed before voters in order to approve the purchase of the property for the school.
Haines said she has confidence in the architects and the school board to make the right decisions for East Helena’s children.
“I was glad to see that they are working very conservatively but at the same time working hard to maintain a high standard of education here,” Haines said.
All of these plans depend on whether voters approve a new high school in East Helena. The issue will appear on the ballot on May 8.