HELENA – In three neighborhoods around the Helena School District, residents will soon flyers announcing that construction is about to begin on their local elementary school.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Barb Ridgway, the district’s staff and student services administrator.
Last year, voters approved a $63 million bond to build new schools to replace Bryant, Central and Jim Darcy Elementary. Work on those buildings will officially begin later in March.
Dick Anderson Construction, which will build the new Bryant and Jim Darcy, and Langlas and Associates, which will build the new Central, are providing information to neighbors to keep them up-to-date on construction plans.
“There may be some rerouting of parent pickup and drop-off; there may be some rerouting of buses,” said Ridgway. “The building principals will keep their families informed about any of those changes.”
Central School students will not be affected by the construction. They are currently attending classes at the former Lincoln School campus, across town from where the new school will be built. The historic Central building had been closed since 2013 over concerns about earthquake safety, and it was demolished last year.
At Jim Darcy and Bryant, the current buildings will remain open, because the new schools will be built at other sites on the campuses.
“The actual construction, once it begins, will be fenced off, so students won’t be impacted,” Ridgway said.
Some work has already started at Bryant, as several houses near the school were demolished. The district purchased the properties to expand the school’s campus, which had been the smallest in Helena.
The Helena School District is planning an official groundbreaking for the three new schools for Wednesday, March 21. The ceremony at Jim Darcy will be held at 9 a.m., followed by events at Bryant at 11 a.m. and at the original Central site at 1:30 p.m. Students and staff of each school will take part in the groundbreakings.
The three new schools are expected to open in time for the 2019-20 school year.
Voters in the East Helena School District also passed a bond last year. The $12 million issue paid for a new elementary school and an addition at East Valley Middle School.
The new Prickly Pear Elementary, under construction at Dartman Field, just off Valley Drive. It will eventually house the district’s first- and second-graders.
So far, East Helena Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said the building has been fully enclosed. Overall, he said it is about 60 percent complete.
“We’re very pleased with the progress out there,” he said.
Work hasn’t started yet at East Valley Middle School. Whitmoyer said contractors will install security fencing at the school next week and then start removing the outside wall where five new classrooms will be built.
Both the addition and Prickly Pear Elementary are scheduled to open in August, in time for the 2018-19 school year.
Whitmoyer praised CWG Architects and Dick Anderson Construction for working on such a tight timeline.
“This bond passed on May 2, and that building will be habitable by our teachers and children on Aug. 28 when we open the doors,” he said. “It’s just a remarkable credit to them.”