The East Helena School District is conducting a survey to determine what interest residents have in creating an East Helena High School.
The survey is being conducted because some residents have expressed interest in the possibility of East Helena having its own high school, Ron Whitmoyer, district superintendent, said on Wednesday.
He added that while many parents with school-aged children have expressed interest in an East Helena High School, it is unknown how other community members feel about the subject.
The East Helena School District has 1,160 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The district’s East Valley Middle School, which has about 450 students, currently feeds 125 to 135 students into Helena High every year.
In all, about 500 of the 1,600 students at Helena High have joined the school from East Helena, Whitmoyer says.
Building a new high school for East Helena would keep that district’s students closer to home, give them a much smaller learning environment and ease the crowding in Helena High.
But several hundred students leaving the Helena School District would dramatically reduce the amount of money the district receives from the state. The amount of state funding a district receives is determined in part by the number of students within the district.
Regardless, even with community support, a huge legal hurdle would have to be overcome for East Helena to even consider building its own high school, Whitmoyer said.
The Montana Code Annotated has placed a moratorium on the creation of any new elementary or high school districts within the state unless certain criteria are met.
East Helena does not meet those criteria, so an amendment would have to be made before an independent high school could be built.
The East Helena School District will be hosting a community roundtable discussion on the possibility of an East Helena High School on Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the East Valley Middle School, located at 401 Kalispell Ave.
The five-question survey can be found on the district’s website.
Those who would rather share their opinions in written form can mail their responses to Attn: Facilities EHPS, P.O. Box 1280, East Helena.