ballots

Tuesday night's nearly final election results show Helena Public Schools voters overwhelmingly favored a $63 million bond by a vote of 13,893 to 4,814.

Only provisional ballots remain to be counted.

The bond is slated to build three new K-5 schools, replacing Central and Jim Darcy schools on their existing sites, and Bryant either on its current campus or a larger one in the near vicinity.

The bond also funds at least $8 million in safety/security and technology upgrades at all K-8 schools, which includes the district’s two middle schools. It affects a total of 13 schools and 5,000 students.

School district Superintendent Jack Copps was reached in the middle of making a toast at a bond victory party where 75 to 100 supporters had gathered in a residence to celebrate the overwhelming bond victory.

“You know it takes a great community to make this happen,” said Copps. “And Helena is a great community. And we are fortunate -- very, very fortunate to have this kind of victory here this evening.

“It even surpassed my expectations.

“What’s next is to continue to thank this town for what it has done -- to make this kind of investment in its community, in its schools. For the moment we are just going to be tremendously grateful for that.

“As school employees, we need to make sure we provide the best results, the best quality education that’s offered in this state. And we need to make sure that continues to happen. ... That needs to be our guarantee to this town that we will be ever vigilant that the schools in Helena bow to no one. That we are the best of the best.”

Tom McGree, chair of the pro-bond group Yes For Helena’s Future Committee, was also celebrating at the bond party and said the room was filled shoulder to shoulder with school board members, parents, teachers and neighbors.

“It’s just so exciting for the group -- the support, the momentum, the energy the community put forth,” he said. “We’re just so appreciative of the turnout this week. It’s so humbling, but we’re so appreciative of everything everyone has done for us.

“It’s been so long since this has happened in Helena. It’s so exciting to have this much support.”

The last time Helena built a new school, Four Georgians, was 40 years ago. The average age of Helena school buildings is 69 years.

For the past couple of months, volunteers have been knocking on doors every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, he said. In the past weeks, they upped that to every day.

They’ve been making phone calls, talking to civic groups and talking to neighbors, he said. In the past three days, they were calling people who hadn’t voted yet.

In addition, there were fundraising parties to raise money for signs, advertising and mailings.

There’s also been honk-and-waves at Jim Darcy School and "Malfunction Junction."

McGree estimates hundreds of volunteers have been involved in the effort.

The tax impact of the bond is estimated to be $10 per month on a home with a taxable value of $200,000.

Reporter Marga Lincoln can be reached at 447-4083 or marga.lincoln@helenair.com

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