East Helena voters will decide May 8 whether to build our city’s first high school.

This decision is a long time coming. People in town have discussed the idea of a local high school for more than 20 years. And now, for a variety of reasons, is the best time to decide whether to act.

Last November, 68 percent of East Helena voters decided they wanted to research construction of a local high school. Since that time, the school district, trustees and community representatives have studied the idea and we believe building a high school here will benefit our kids and our community.

Financially, we believe it makes sense to decide on building a local high school now.

Right now, East Helena taxpayers pay toward the operation and maintenance of Helena’s two high schools. If the Helena District approves further bonds to improve or maintain these schools, East Helenans will pay for those, also. This could delay building an East Helena high school for many more years.

However, if East Helena approves its own high school bond now, before Helena approves another bond, East Helena’s tax dollars will stay in their own community and fund operations of our own high school once it is built.

The time also is right for our kids. A local school will provide smaller class sizes to provide our students with the academic, emotional and social support they need. Numerous studies show that students in small schools do better academically, feel less alienated, more nurtured and more connected to caring adults.

A local high school is also more convenient and safer for students and parents. They won’t need to drive to Helena for school, appointments with teachers, extracurricular activities, sporting events, concerts and more.

Kids won’t miss out by attending a smaller, local school either. The smaller student population will give more East Helena youth the chance to compete in team sports and participate on student council.

Ours would be a Class A high school with the sports equipment and facilities to compete at this level statewide. The high school also will include high-performing academic programs; career technical education; science facilities; drafting and robotics; culinary arts; performing and visual arts; band, jazz band, chorus facilities and more.

The $29.5 million bond will fund construction of the high school. The cost for the owner or a $200,000 home is projected at $34.21 per month. However, East Helena taxpayers will no longer pay into operations of Helena’s schools once the local high school opens. This, when coupled with the recent proposed increases to the high school levies in Helena will decrease the monthly payment by $4.86 per month, for a total of $29.35 per month. According to our forecasts, operations costs for the high school will result in a tax reduction over time for East Helenans.

This is an important decision for our community and our kids. It’s vital that local voters stay informed. The district is holding numerous public meetings to answer questions and present information. I encourage residents to attend. There also is more information available at www.easthelenahighschool.org. Please remember to fill out your mail ballot when it arrives in April and send it in. All ballots will be due May 8.

Ron Whitmoyer is the superintendent of East Helena Public Schools.