Our goal is to ensure that parents and community members have all the information they need about these projects. Below are answers to frequently asked questions. Have a question? Send us a message

Frequently Asked Questions​

What is the current enrollment of the elementary schools that will be replaced? What will be the capacity of the new schools?

Enrollment numbers are based on the 2018-2019 school year.

  • Bryant School enrollment was 227 students. The new school is being built for 350-375 students.

  • Central-Linc School enrollment was 234 students. The new Central School is being built for 350-375 students.

  • Jim Darcy School enrollment was 420 students. The new school is being built for 500 students.

How does the square footage of the new schools compare to the old schools?

  • Bryant School will go from 29,332 square feet to 62,000 sf, an increase of 32,668 sf.

  • Central School will go from 38,311 square feet to 61,561 sf of instructional space and 3,725 sf of district space, an increase of 26,975 sf.*

  • Jim Darcy School will go from 24,533 square feet to 67,000 sf, an increase of 42,467 sf.

 

*Additional space has been allocated at Central School to house the school district’s computer network server (600 sf) and to provide cold storage (3125 sf). The topography of the site is such that it is less expensive for the district to construct basement level, cold storage space on the building’s west side than to bring in fill material to build up the site. The total square footage of the new building for Central School and district purposes will be 65,286 sq ft.

In January 2017, the Helena Public Schools issued a Request for Qualifications seeking architects for the new Bryant, Central, and Jim Darcy Schools as well as the Technology and Security upgrades. Through this process, the district selected four local architecture firms.

  • Bryant School: Mosaic Architecture, Ben Tintinger, Principal-in-Charge and Gretchen Krumm, Project Architect

  • Central School: SMA Architects, Tim Meldrum, Principal-in-Charge and Klint Fisher, Project Manager

  • Jim Darcy School: Dowling Studio Architects, Mike Dowling, Principal Architect

  • Technology and Security upgrades: CWG Architects, Tony Perpignano, Principal Architect

Who are the partner architecture firms and what is their role?

The three local architecture firms selected for the new elementary schools have each chosen to partner with an architecture firm who has demonstrated expertise in designing and building new schools. All have prior experience working together and successfully completing projects.

Mosaic Architecture has partnered with CTA, http://www.ctagroup.com/education/

SMA Architects has partnered with NAC Architecture, http://nacarchitecture.com/portfolio/k12-schools.html

Dowling Studio Architects has partnered with ALSC Architects, http://www.alscarchitects.com/portfolio/k-12-education/

 

The partner firm websites have extensive photo galleries of the schools that they have designed and built. Check out their websites. It’s worth a look!

Who are the general contractors for the new schools and what is their role?

The general contractor for both Bryant School and Jim Darcy School is Dick Anderson Construction, headquartered in Helena. The general contractor for Central School is Langlas & Associates, based in Billings. Both firms have significant experience in the construction of new schools in Montana. Their role is to provide general contracting and construction managing (GC/CM) professional services.

These services include planning services such as scheduling, budgeting, preparing cost estimates, evaluating building systems and materials for the new schools, and selecting subcontractors to assist at various stages of the construction process. Once construction begins, the GC/CM ensures that the project moves forward on time and within budget, delivering the project within the scope and quality standards set for the project.

The GC/CM is responsible for maintaining good working relationships and open communication with the school district, the design teams, the school principals, and the residents of the neighborhood schools. For the Helena School District, the point of contact with each GC/CM is Kalli Kind, Director of Support Services.

What is the design team and who is included on the team?

The design team includes the GC/CM, architects, and representatives of the school district. The team prioritizes choices related to project construction through a process called “Value Engineering.”  Value engineering is an exercise that involves taking a wider view and looking at the selection of materials, plant, equipment and processes to see if a more cost-effective solution exists that will achieve the same project objectives.

 

In construction, this involves considering the availability of materialsconstruction methods, transportation issues, site limitations or restrictions, planning and organization, costs, profits, and so on. Among the benefits that can be delivered through value engineering are a reduction in life cycle costs, improvement in quality, and reduction of environmental impacts.

If all goes according to schedule, when will the new schools open?

The new Bryant, Central, and Jim Darcy Schools will be open in August, 2019, at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

What is the overall project time line?

In May through October 2017, architects were in the programming/educational specs, schematic design, and design development phases, which included meeting with teachers, students, and community members to gather input on the function and design of the new schools. By the end of October, the architects submitted the schematic design documents. In December of 2017, the design development phase wrapped up and construction documents were prepared. Bidding and permitting occurred in February and March 2018, and construction began in March and April 2018. The new schools will be completed in time for the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

The new schools project timeline is posted at www.helenaschoolbond.org. Click on the tabs for Bryant, Central and Jim Darcy to see the project timelines for the individual schools.

Will the new schools include community meeting space?

Yes! In each of the new schools, community members will be able to schedule after-school access to common areas, including the library, gym, and community kitchen space. These spaces are centrally located, allowing access to these spaces outside the school day without comprising the security of the classroom areas. To book an event within one of our schools, please click here.

Will the 7th Avenue Gym remain on the Central School site?

The 7th Avenue Gym was not included in the demolition permit for the existing Central School.  At this time, the new school is being sited and designed based on the assumption that the 7th Avenue gym will remain in its current location.

Future options for the 7th Avenue Gym are currently being reviewed by the District.

What is the status of the legal action related to Central School? How will the action affect the timeline for building a new Central School?

On June 21, 2017, District Judge Michael McMahon dismissed the lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the demolition of the old Central School.  The judge ruled that the school district has “exclusive and sole authority” over the Central School property.  The District is moving forward with the construction of a new school on the Central School site.

Will the District be surplusing any materials from Central School prior to demolition?

At the time of demolition, the District sold bricks from the former school; the proceeds were divided between the Helena Education Foundation and the Angel Fund.

There are “dedicated” pavers (with people’s names on them) on the front walkway to Central School. What will happen to these pavers?

The pavers have been saved and have been incorporated into a wall at the new school.

What land has been purchased for the new schools?

In July 2017, Helena Public Schools purchased three houses on Boulder Avenue for a combined purchase price of $785,000. With these purchases, the district was able to expand the Bryant school site from 1.9 acres to 2.6 acres. The district took possession of these houses on November 12.

Additionally, the district has purchased four vacant lots adjacent to Jim Darcy School. These purchases totaled $368,600 and have expanded the Jim Darcy school site from 7 acres to 10 acres. The district is negotiating with Lewis and Clark County to develop and maintain a dedicated green space 1.7 acres of park land to the north of the school site.

When will the school bonds be sold? Is there a time limit for when the bond proceeds must be spent?

In September 2017, Helena Public Schools sold general obligation bonds totaling $55 million for the three new schools. The sale proved to be very attractive to a variety of investors, including many buyers in the Helena area. The 2.92% interest rate was very appealing and was lower than the rate several other AA districts received for their projects.

The remaining $8 million in bonds for technology, safety, and security will be sold at a later date. State law requires that the bond proceeds be spent within three years of the date of issue.

How are the bond proceeds allocated?

Each school has its own set of unique factors that need to be considered.  The total amount of the bond is sufficient to build three new schools and complete the technology, safety and security upgrades across the district.

Does the school district have an owner’s representative? Who is it and how will they be involved?

The Helena Public Schools selected Hulteng CCM, Inc. in Billings, MT, as its owner’s representative. The owner’s representative has negotiated contracts with the architects and contractors, ensured that the schools are built to the project specifications, and has worked with the bond counsel on the sale of the school bonds.  The district’s primary point of contact from Hulteng CCM is Richard Whitney. Shane Swandal, Vice President of Hulteng, Inc. is also an advisor to the district.

The owner’s representative represents the District’s interests in all aspects and phases of the projects including, but not limited to, programming, design and construction.

What are opportunities for engagement?

Each new school project involves opportunities for community members to share their hopes, ideas and concerns about what the community values and needs, how students and their families will be served by the new school, and how the school neighborhood will be impacted. Community members can find information about community meetings and the progress of the new schools at www.helenaschoolbond.org, where you can sign up to receive the district’s e-letter or submit a comment or question. You can also follow Helena School District on Facebook at Helena School District.

How can I stay informed of the progress of the new schools?

The best “go-to” source for information is the www.helenaschoolbond.org website. Drawings and photos of the new schools are posted on the website. Click on the school links listed under the Schematics icon to see the latest photos. 

On the www.helenaschools.org website, you will find a calendar of school and community events - including our upcoming ribbon cuttings and grand openings. Click on the individual tabs for Bryant, Central and Jim Darcy to see a detailed calendar of meetings and events specifically related to each school. 

How are teachers, parents, students and community members involved in the process?

Prior to the end of the 2016-17 school year, teachers and students at Bryant, Central-Lincoln, and Jim Darcy Schools met with the architects to talk about the educational program of the school, the school culture and values, and the needs of students and their families. At each school, the planning meetings with school staff extended over two full days to provide time to get into details of instructional space, resource areas, multi-purpose spaces, libraries, playground spaces, gymnasiums and administrative spaces. Students at all age levels have shared their ideas about creating a welcoming school and a healthy environment for learning and innovation.  Each school also hosted a series of evening community workshops in May through October on 2017 to gather input from parents and community members.

What is the role of the building committee? What is the make-up of the committee? When do they meet? Are the meetings open to the public?

Bryant, Central and Jim Darcy Schools have each created a building committee composed of teachers, parents and community members, who meet periodically with the school principal and the architects to discuss the education programming needs of teachers and school families. Each building committee has taken an advisory role in helping to determine what the completed school will look like.

These meetings are posted on the www.helenaschoolbond.org  website under the tabs for the individual schools.

The architects talk about developing EdSpecs. What does that mean?

Education specifications are a set of project requirements designed to support the educational program of the school and the district. The educational program includes the curricula, student, and staff support programs, along with the teaching and learning activities that occur throughout the school day and year. By gathering input from educators, students, and community members, the architects have been better able to design a facility that supports teaching, learning, and the physical environment in which they occur.  The facility not only supports, but is part of, the educational program.

More specifically, the educational specifications are based on the district’s goals, objectives, policies, and community input.  For example, the specifications will take into consideration the enrollment of the school and the grade-level configuration; the curriculum content and teaching methods; the function of each space and its spatial relationship to other areas of the school; and the community activities that may occur at the school.

Will Central School continue to have a Montessori program? What about the Functional Life Skills program?

Yes. Central School will continue to have both the Montessori program and the Functional Life Skills program. The new building will include space designed to host both of these educational programs and their unique opportunities.

Will Bryant continue to have the Positive Behavior Support program?

Yes. Bryant School will continue to provide the Positive Behavior Support program, which serves students from across the Helena Elementary District.

How will the after-school needs of students be addressed?

Schools that currently have before and after school child care will continue to have those programs. The designs for the three new schools include designated space for SACC, the School Age Child Care program.

Will the buildings incorporate green building standards/performance criteria and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification?

LEED certification means the construction of a home or building is designed to save energy, water, and resources.  The architects have designed buildings that incorporate green building standards and performance criteria. A few examples might include passive solar; using materials with a high amount of recycled content; energy efficient systems such as LED lighting; paints and glues that do not off-gas; and carpets and floor finishes that are environmentally-friendly.  However, the district is unlikely to pursue LEED certification, which has an estimated initial cost of $50,000-$75,000 per building plus ongoing annual costs. The District is committed to sustainable practices.

Will the new schools provide opportunities for students to eat fresh food made on-site and to gain cooking skills?

Yes. The district currently has a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at Bryant and Central-Linc Schools. Students are provided new and seasonal fruits and vegetables daily as snacks between meals. In addition, Helena elementary schools bring nutrition to K-5 classrooms, providing opportunities for students to try more fruits and vegetables, learn why they are good for you, and learn portion control with healthy food items.

While the new schools will not have all of the equipment included in “commercial kitchens,” the three schools will have prep kitchens with commercial grade equipment, including ovens, freezers, dishwashers, and food preparation areas. Kitchen space will be available in the common areas for pupil instruction during the school day, after-school programs, and community use.

Helena Public Schools prepares school breakfast and lunches at Capital High School and transports meals to all other schools in the district.

How have the contractors secured the construction site and maintained a safe environment for students and staff?

To ensure safety on-site and the separation of construction activities from school operations, the contractors will use the following strategies:

  • Secure fencing around the site

  • Badges to identify authorized construction workers

  • Implementation of rules of conduct which cover acceptable language, contact with students and staff, and no loud or offensive music on site

  • Clearly marked walkways for the public

  • Strict noise and dust control measures

  • Scheduled material deliveries to reduce the amount of lay down area needed

  • Limit the construction zone footprint

  • Specific parking areas for construction personnel

Additionally each construction worker who has worked at one of our schools during school hours has underdone ad district-mandated background check.

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Helena School District 

55 S Rodney St, Helena, MT 59601

(406) 324-2000

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