East Helena voters to weigh in on proposed high school site purchase

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-19 19:22:40-04

HELENA – Voters in the East Helena School District will decide this month whether to give their approval to the planned location for the community’s new high school.

District leaders mailed out more than 5,000 ballots to residents Friday. They are asking voters to support buying 35 acres of land at Dartman Field, just off Valley Drive north of the Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue building. Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said the district expects to purchase the property from the Montana Environmental Trust Group for about $207,000.

Earlier this year, a committee of school board members, school administrators and other community members identified the site as the best location for the new school.

“It’s a nice parcel of land: It’s very flat, it should be easy to build on, it’s along the walking path that goes north along Valley Drive,” said Whitmoyer.

State law requires a school district to get voter approval before buying any land that isn’t immediately adjacent to other school property.

“We are definitely in need of permission from our community to do this, and so the community gets to decide whether or not they want to give us permission to do that,” Whitmoyer said.

This vote does not come with any financial impact for district residents. The money to purchase a school site was set aside in the $29 million high school bond voters approved in May.

However, Whitmoyer said, if voters reject the Dartman Field site, it could delay the high school project by months or even a year.

“We have put forward the best property that we could find,” he said.

The district currently hopes to finish the high school in time for the 2020-2021 school year.

Voters can mail their ballots in or return them directly to the East Helena School District office. All ballots must be received by July 23.