School Facility Press

Posted on January 28, 2015

Preservationists suggest alternate funds to restore Central School

Possible uses for historic Central School and costs for its renovation have served as roadblocks to Helena school facility solutions for years.

Central School has sat empty since March 2013, when it was closed suddenly after a report showed seismic inadequacies in the event of an earthquake.

Proponents of historical renovation have approached school officials and suggested alternative options for funding a seismic retrofit, such as state loan and grant programs that would not require voter approval.


Read more here at the Helena IR.

Posted on January 21, 2015

‘Exhausted our deliberations’: Facility Committee proposals headed to full board of trustees

The Helena Public Schools Facility Committee agreed at its meeting Tuesday night to send multiple proposals to the full Board of Trustees.… 

Read more at the Helena IR.

Posted on January 15, 2015

Helena Public Schools demographic report contains Billings data

Several pieces of data that apply only to the Billings school district ended up in an April 2013 demographic study for Helena Public Schools.

The school district used the demographic study as a key element in developing the vision for the future of Helena’s public schools, and although some of the information in the document didn’t pertain to Helena, district leaders maintain that information wasn’t used as a basis for their decision.

Read more here at the Helena IR.

Updated data can be found Here


Posted on January 15, 2015

Superintendent: East Helena high would hurt Helena students

Helena Public Schools Superintendent Kent Kultgen raised concerns at Tuesday night’s school board meeting about how a bill allowing for the creation of a high school in East Helena could affect Helena’s high schools.

His comments came hours after he released a newsletter that called the bill “complicated” and “unnecessary.”

Read more at the Helena IR.

Posted on January 7, 2015

School district’s bonding capacity limited by state

Helena Public Schools officials are saying a solution for facility needs around the district must be broken into three bond elections.

Driving the decision is a state-imposed “bonding capacity” that limits the amount of debt on which a school district can ask taxpayers to make payments. Law sets that cap at 50 percent of the taxable value of properties in a district.

Read more here 

Posted on January 7, 2015

Trustees hold bond for further discussion

The Helena Public Schools Board of Trustees Facility Committee heard details of the latest vision at its Tuesday night meeting but decided to discuss it further in another committee meeting before taking the proposal to the full board.

The vision is an effort to address issues of displaced students and outdated school buildings in Helena’s K-12 public school district. The vision was developed by the Facility Committee, a group of three board members that has been meeting since the beginning of the school year. At the December Board of Trustees meeting, members asked Superintendent Kent Kultgen to outline specifics and costs of a bond.

Read more at the Helena IR here.

Posted on January 4, 2015

Weigh in on latest school plan

The Helena School Board and superintendent Kent Kultgen are once again nearly ready to unveil another plan on addressing student displacement and long-term building upgrade issues around the district.

This plan, unlike those in the past, will take a comprehensive look at the district’s building needs and call for two new high schools, remodeling existing middle schools along with building or renovating elementary schools. The plan, as it stands now, would be completed in two stages requiring two different bond elections.

The details of the plan are still being worked through and will be presented to the school board’s facilities committee on Jan. 6. At that time Kultgen will release the financials for phase one, which would call for the building of a new Jim Darcy Elementary school, renovated or rebuilding Smith and renovations to Warren, Broadwater, Jefferson, Rossiter and Four Georgians, along with safety and technology fixes to Bryant, Central-Linc, Kessler and Hawthorne.

Phase two of this plan would be building new Capital and Helena High schools, remodeling the existing high schools to be middle schools and remodeling the current C.R. Anderson and Helena Middle Schools to be elementary schools. Implicit in this plan is the consolidation of Kessler and Hawthorne Elementary schools into what is now C.R. Anderson Middle School and consolidating Central and Bryant Elementary schools into what is now Helena Middle School. This would also involve redrawing district boundaries.

This is an ambitious plan, and in a meeting with the IR Editorial Board on Tuesday, Kultgen and assistant superintendent Greg Upham both said they feel like this gives the community the best way to move forward to address the needs of the students.

The fact is, Upham told us, Helena students’ academic performance is hindered by the facility problems the district and the community have been wrestling with for the several years. One of the ways to realize academic improvement is to create learning environments that are comfortable, safe and modernized. This plan accomplishes that goal, he said.

Ultimately, that is for the community to decide. Both phases of the plan will require community support in the form of passing a bond levy. Kultgen’s goal is to have a bond issue before voters this late spring or early summer, which means the facilities committee and school board will need to move quickly to approve a plan.

We’re anxious to hear from the community about this most recent proposal. It’s been a long road to get here, and we’ve been through a variety of different plans. Sometimes it has seemed like the school board isn’t listening to the community and at other times it has felt like they were too sensitive to criticism and complaints. But all along a comprehensive plan was necessary so voters could clearly understand what their tax money would be going toward and how the community and families would be impacted.

This is a major facilities plan for the school district and the community. And it’s important we get this right because our kids will have to live with these decisions for decades to come. As we’ve said in the past, the status quo here is no longer an option. Something needs to be done to improve our school facilities and educational environment.

Kultgen told us this plan reflects comments he has heard from the community and the needs of the district and students. But there’s still opportunity to voice your opinions. The school board facilities committee meeting on Jan. 6 is open to the public and so is the school board meeting Jan. 15. Now is the time to make your voice heard about this plan.

But it’s also time to move forward and settle on a plan that will give our kids the best learning environment possible.

Helena IR Editorial 

Posted on January 4, 2015

Top stories of 2014: 1. Ongoing school consolidation effort

The saga of revamping Helena’s public schools spans years of new ideas, flip-flopping proposals and community pushback — and 2014 was no different.

Heading into 2015, district officials are proposing a vision they think can overhaul the facility disrepair and student displacement in Helena’s schools. It comes after a canceled 2014 bond.

In a November 2013 Independent Record story, Helena Public Schools Superintendent Kent Kultgen said the district doesn’t have enough information to justify closing a school.

“Let’s quit talking about closing a school,” he said. “Let’s keep that off the table.”

Read more at the Helena IR here 

Posted on January 4, 2015

District leaders staying firm on plan for school consolidation

Despite objection from a vocal faction of Helena, district officials have adhered to the necessity of closing and consolidating some of Helena’s 11 elementary schools.

Greg Upham, assistant superintendent of Helena Public Schools, said consolidating schools is necessary because it would free up some of the operational funds for educational resources.


Read more at the Helena IR.

Posted on December 26, 2014

Possible plan includes modular classrooms on Central campus for eight to ten years

For one potential solution to get displaced Central School students back to their neighborhood school, Superintendent Kent Kultgen is proposing building modular classrooms to house students for eight to 10 years.

Students in the Central Elementary School boundary have been attending the Lincoln campus since March 2013 when Central was closed after a report revealed the building had inadequate structural integrity.

In early December, the Helena Public Schools Board of Trustees Facility Committee rolled out a long-range facility vision that aims to solve overflow and building degradation issues facing Helena schools. Part of that vision calls for renovating Helena Middle School into an elementary school that would serve students consolidated from nearby elementary campuses.

According to the vision, a renovated HMS would not be ready for elementary students for eight to ten years. At its December meeting, the school board tasked Kultgen to develop scenarios that would eventually meet the vision.

One of those scenarios is to build multiple modular classrooms that would house the entire Central student population until Helena Middle School is renovated and ready for students, Kultgen said.

Read more at the Helena IR here.