Congratulations to the Helena School District Educational Planning Effort committee and all the stakeholders who advocated for retaining our city’s historic school buildings for their original purpose. This past October, Montana Preservation Alliance (MPA) staff presented a program at the annual Mon-tana Conference of Educational Leadership in Billings on how Montana’s historic and older school-houses could be rehabilitated to meet 21st century educational and safety standards while preserving those features that make these buildings historically and culturally significant. These days, school dis-tricts across the country are refurbishing historic buildings and the results are wonderful and inviting.
A few weeks ago in Spokane, MPA staff toured three early 20th century high schools and the deep de-light and pride students, staff, and faculty exhibited in their rehabilitated buildings was very moving and could be replicated in our city.
In our experience, two factors are vital to successful rehabilitation: the inclusion of architects and en-gineers experienced with historic buildings throughout the design/rehabilitation process, and adequate maintenance budgets for all schools as any building—whether of new construction or not—will deterio-rate from neglect. Further, historic schools can frequently be rehabilitated to be sustainable, state-of-the-art facilities at comparable or less cost than a new building and MPA looks forward to seeing this happen in Helena.