Around a dozen people stepped onto a magic school bus of sorts Tuesday, but instead of traveling to the ocean floor or inside the human body, they toured the “underside” of Helena’s aging schools.
The tour of Bryant, Hawthorne, Kessler Elementary and Helena Middle School was the first of a pair of visits offered this week by the Helena School District as it nears a decision on which construction projects to be included in a K-8 bond proposal.
Riders saw closets that have been converted into classrooms, walked up a ramp to nowhere, navigated mazelike basements and heard stories from principals about day-to-day challenges of working in buildings that were designed two generations ago.
Read more at the Helena IR.
Hawthorne, Bryant and Jefferson Elementary Schools would close, with boundaries for the remaining elementary schools redrafted to more evenly distribute students, under an elementary school bond proposal brought before the school board by Helena School District Superintendent Kent Kultgen.
“The majority, if not all people in Helena, understand we need to do something with our facilities,” Kultgen said. “Academically, we can’t continue the status quo.”
The district would sell five buildings, Hawthorne, Bryant, May Butler, Front Street Learning Center and Ray Bjork, while converting Jefferson to administration offices under the proposal. The remaining eight elementary schools, Jim Darcy, Central, Smith, Kessler, Rossiter, Four Georgians, Warren and Broadwater, would see between $3.4 million and $13.6 million in construction if voters approve a $73 million bond next May.
Kultgen citied statistics showing that the costs will increase each year the district waits to begin construction.