We're so proud of our new schools and the progress on updating and securing all of our schools. Below, you'll find some frequently asked questions on the projects.
If these responses do not answer your questions, please send us a message.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the current enrollment at the three new schools and how does that compare to last year?
A: Current Enrollment numbers were pulled in October 2019.
Bryant Elementary currently has 252 students, a 25 student increase from last year. Bryant's new capacity is 350-375.
Central Elementary currently has 282 students, a 48 student increase from last year. Capacity at Central is 350-375.
Jim Darcy Elementary currently has 463 students, a 43 student increase from last year. Jim Darcy's new capacity is 500.
Q: How does the square footage of the new schools compare to the old schools?
A: Bryant increased from 29,332 sq ft to 62,000 sq ft, an increase of 32,668 sq ft. Central increased from 38,311 sq ft to
61,561 sq ft of instructional space and 3,725 sf of district space*, an increase of 26,975 sq ft. Jim Darcy School increased
from 24,533 sq ft to 67,000 sq ft, an increase of 42,467 sq ft.
*Additional space has been allocated at Central to house the school district’s computer network server (600 sq ft) and to
provide cold storage (3125 sq ft) for the district's breakfast and lunch . 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.
Q: What land was purchased for the new schools?
A: 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, 2017.
Additionally, the district 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.
Q: Who was involved in the design and building process?
A: Throughout the process, members of the community, educators and administrators, local architects, and general contractors took care to prioritize choices related to project construction through a process called "Value Engineering." Value engineering involves taking a wider view and looking at the selection of materials, equipment, and processes to see if a more cost-effective solution exists that will achieve the same project objectives. Benefits of value engineering include a reduction in life cycle costs, improvement in quality, and reduction of environmental impacts.
Q: The plans included developing EdSpecs. What are those?
A: 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 designed schools to support teaching, learning, and the physical environment in which they occur.
More specifically, the educational specifications were based on the district’s goals, objectives, policies, and community input. For example, the specifications factored 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 occur at the school.
Q: Speaking of community activities, do the new schools include community meeting space?
A: Yes! In each of the new schools, community members can 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.
Q: What has been saved and/or repurposed from the old schools?
A: This is one of our favorite questions to answer. One challenge faced by the Helena Public School District was balancing the historical weight of Helena’s history with the desire, and in fact the necessity, to prepare our students for success in a competitive global environment. Throughout the demolition and construction process, architects, contractors, and district staff remained vigilant to preserve as many historically significant pieces as possible.
Additionally, the district is fortunate to have an extremely talented carpentry staff who has saved the most unsaveable from the old schools. Tables have been built from previous floors, desks have ship-lapped from old materials, and furniture has been refinished and given a new life in alternative locations and for alternative uses with functional and beautiful results. Furniture and modulars have also been cleaned and redistributed to schools and buildings across the district.
Q: What's an update on the 7th Avenue Gym?
A: A feasibility study was contracted with SMA Architects and in coordination with Montana Preservation Alliance to detail the current status of the gym and project estimated costs for development. Currently, the board of trustees is accepting proposals for development of the site by emailing the board of trustees. You can view the full feasibility study and the executive summary from the District Facilities page on our website.
Q: What green building standards were incorporated into the schools?
A: The arcitects and construction crews designed and built the schools to incorporated green building standard and performance criteria. A few examples are passive solar power, using materials with a high amount of recycled content, energy efficient lighting systems, paints and glues that do not off-gas, and environmentally-friendly flooring. In fact, the district recently received several grants to assist in paying for solar energy at the three new schools.
Q: 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 Schools. Students are provided new and seasonal fruits and vegetables daily as snacks between meals. Additionally, all Helena elementary schools bring nutrition to K-5 classrooms, providing opportunities for students to try more fruits and vegetables, learn why they are healthy, and learn portion control with healthy food items.
While the new schools do not have all of the equipment included in “commercial kitchens,” thy each have prep kitchens with commercial grade equipment, including ovens, freezers, dishwashers, and food preparation areas. Kitchen space is 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.