Helena Public Schools dismissed students early Thursday and canceled all classes and sporting events Friday due to winter weather, and local officials are urging people to stay off the roads until conditions improve. 

"We are recommending that people avoid driving (Friday) morning, only necessary travel is suggested," the city of Helena announced Thursday afternoon. 

The Helena area experienced a dramatic drop in temperatures Thursday, causing rain and melting snow to quickly freeze.

Until 5 p.m. Friday, central and southern Lewis and Clark County and Jefferson County will remain under a winter storm warning for a weather event expected to drop 4-6 inches of snow in the Helena Valley and 8-12 inches at higher elevations. 

According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm warning for snow means "severe winter weather conditions will make travel very hazardous or impossible."

"If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency," NWS cautioned. 

In addition to canceling classes, the Helena school district canceled all of its high school boys and girls basketball games scheduled for Friday evening. The basketball games scheduled for Saturday will be held later in the day.

All after-school activities at Helena Middle School and CR Anderson Middle School were canceled Thursday and Friday. 

However, the National Speech and Debate Qualifier tournament scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Helena High School and Helena College will continue as planned.

An email from the Helena school district's Assistant Superintendent Greg Upham said the make-up day for Friday's canceled classes is tentatively scheduled for June 7. 

East Helena Public Schools dismissed students at the regular time Thursday and did not plan to cancel classes on Friday, according to Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer.

Whitmoyer said the district's bus drivers have been delivering students to school safely for years and will be extra cautious due to the weather. He also said it's difficult for some parents to find a place for their kids to be during the day when school is canceled.

If anything changes, Whitmoyer said the East Helena school district's website and social media accounts will be updated. Parents who have signed up for alerts will also receive text messages.

The Montana City school district plans to adhere to its regular school schedule as well, though it canceled parent teacher conferences Thursday night. An email sent to Montana City parents said school buses will operate Friday but with altered routes. "The buses will not go up Sawmill Road or Upper McClellan Creek Road," the email states. 

Any changes to the Montana City schedule will be posted on the school district's website, and parents who signed up for alerts will receive a text or email. The district will call parents who don't receive alerts.