The Helena school board discussed the most recent draft of the educational steering committee’s proposals for the district and unanimously approved a new fine arts curriculum during the board’s meeting last night.
One night after presenting the most recent draft of the committee’s proposals to the public in a town hall meeting, the head of the project, Ben Tintinger of Mosaic Architecture, presented the group’s proposals to the school board for comment one last time before the committee’s official recommendation is made to the board Jan. 8.
The committee’s recommendations
Phase one of the committee’s proposals — which include renovations, additions or rebuilds at nearly every school in the district over the next decade, as well as the construction of a new middle school — will cost an estimated $103.5 million. Of that total, an estimated $40.5 million will be spent at the high school level and $63 million at the elementary level.
“The recommendations are based on a lot of input, a lot of research, a lot of tours through all the existing buildings,” Tintinger said. “It’s not taken lightly when we come up with these recommendations for phase one. They’re all things that we felt as a community are important to get done because there is so much that hasn’t been done for a long time.”
He said that the committee will likely present three top priorities, at least at the elementary level, during the final recommendation in January; at present, those top priorities are to rebuild and expand Jim Darcy Elementary and Bryant Elementary at a combined estimated cost of $18.6 million and to build a new
$16 million middle school at a location to be determined.
The rest of the elementary-level phase one proposals include a $2.7 million expansion and remodeling of Warren Elementary; a $7.5 million renovation at Central School; $7.8 million in renovations and remodeling at C.R. Anderson and Helena Middle schools; $5.9 million in remodeling and additions to Broadwater Elementary and Jefferson Elementary; and the addition of a $750,000 cafeteria to Kessler Elementary.
At the high school level, the proposals include an $18.7 million phased rebuild of parts of Helena High; $10 million in additions and remodeling at Capital High; $8 million for a new career and technology education facility at a location to be determined that will be shared by the two high schools; a $2 million renovation of Vigilante Stadium; and the sale of the Front Street Learning Center and May Butler Center, using the proceeds to consolidate administration into a new or existing school facility.
“I don’t want to leave the rest of this off the table because it will enhance our educational opportunities and our facilities going forward,” Tintinger said.
The proposals, if enacted, will likely incorporate a considerable amount of the estimated $60 million in infrastructure replacements, repairs and improvements that will be required at district schools over the next 15 years, said Libby Goldes, chair of the board.
“We have some large projects that we’re going to have to undertake to maintain our buildings anyway,” she said. “That’s another advantage to doing this.”
The cost of the phase one proposals — $103.5 million — does not exceed the bonding capacity of the district, which is $83.4 million at the elementary school level and $106.5 million at the high school level.
Because the proposal’s costs do not exceed the bonding capacity and because of historically low interest rates and the fact that the district has minimal debt, it makes sense to move forward with a bond issue, said Michael O’Neil, one of the board trustees.
“We may be able to save taxpayers money by taking advantage of interest rates now,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to January when we can officially have that recommendation for you,” Kultgen said to the board. “I’m excited for that. I think the community is excited.”
But figuring out how to manage the district’s long-term operating costs with the addition of a new school and expansions at several existing schools will be a challenge requiring teamwork on the part of those involved with the decision making process, he said.
“It’s not impossible, but along with that is going to come some tough decisions and discussions on how we make it all work,” Kultgen said. “But I do think it can work.”
To read the most recent summary of the committee’s proposals, visit
helenair.com, where you can also find a link to the 30-minute video summary of the committee’s proposals that was shown during Monday’s town hall.
Fine arts curriculum approved, along with other business
After a second reading of the K-12 Fine Arts Curriculum Drafts during the meeting, the board unanimously approved the new measures, which comply with the Montana Fine Arts Content Standards and Technology Profiles.
As part of the new curriculum, educators drafted learning targets for each area of fine arts taught in the district and suggested ways for teachers to integrate technology with the Montana Common Core Literacy Standards for Technical Subjects.
The board also set Jan 14. as the day to conduct their superintendent evaluation.
The meeting will be closed to the public because it deals with personnel matters, said Cherche Prezeau, vice chair of the board.
The board also announced that kindergarten enrollment will begin on Jan. 2 at 8 a.m. For more coverage of that topic, read the IR in coming weeks.