Back-to-School Update from Superintendent Weltz

August 12, 2022


Dear Helena Public Schools Families,

I hope you’re savoring these final weeks of summer.

With the first day of school right around the corner, I’d like to share a few updates on all we’re doing to prepare for a great 2022-23 school year, as well as some family reminders.

Summer facilities work

While our buildings may look quiet, our facilities team is hard at work across the district to complete off-season maintenance and prepare school buildings for the return of students and staff. Among their biggest projects is a safety and efficiency upgrade to the lighting system at CR Anderson Middle School, retrofitting the system to LED.

Other work includes re-roofing Four Georgians Elementary, the completion of a two-year re-roofing project at Jefferson Elementary, and districtwide HVAC cleaning and flooring projects. Thank you to our custodians, carpenters, electricians, painters, and all who are getting our buildings in top form for a fresh start to the new school year.

Camp Ascension

The district’s Camp Ascension summer school program has wrapped up, and graduates are ready to hit the ground running this school year. Approximately 280 students from each elementary school participated, spending their mornings on reading and math and their afternoons exploring new horizons on field trips with community partners including the Stonetree Climbing Center, Exploration Works, and Farm in the Dell. Funded by federal COVID-relief dollars, Camp Ascension was made available to elementary students whose teachers felt they would benefit from the program. At the middle school level, summer programs focused on closing learning gaps as well as STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). High school students focused on credit recovery to complete coursework required for graduation.

A big thank you to our community partners for hosting our students and to our Camp Ascension teachers, paras, and principals who returned to the classroom to make this summer of learning and growth possible for our students.

Bus driver recruitment

Chances are, you’ve seen the advertisements for school bus drivers this summer. We’ve blanketed the community with our recruitment campaign, which includes billboards, social media, radio and TV ads and interviews, booths at job fairs, a booth at the Last Chance Stampede and Fair, pop-up recruitment stations at busy intersections around town, and much more.

These efforts have paid off, and we’re optimistic that we can start the school year with a normal bus schedule. However, the possibility remains for rolling route suspensions for a short period of time. We recognize the hardship that bus service interruptions cause for families and continue to do everything in our power to avoid them this fall. We’ll provide updates so families know what to expect as school starts.

Meanwhile, I would again like to ask for your help to get all of our buses rolling this fall. Our transportation contractor, First Student, now pays a starting wage of $22 to $25.70 plus a sign-on bonus of $4,000 to $6,000, depending on credentials and experience.

While there are exceptions, drivers may also bring their children on the bus with them, making this a great opportunity if you’re a stay-at-home parent who wants to start part-time work. Bus driving also is an excellent way for retirees to earn extra cash while serving our community.

Please share this information with family and friends and, if you’re interested, apply now at or contact our Transportation Department at 406-324-2100. Please also watch for our social media posts on Facebook and Twitter and share them!

Sign up now for Free & Reduced Lunch

We also need our families’ help as we start the year with major changes to our Free & Reduced Lunch program. As I shared last spring, our Food Services team served more than 2 million breakfasts and lunches to our community’s children during the pandemic – free of charge – with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That funding has now ended, bringing two important changes as we start the 2022-23 school year:

Students who are not qualified to receive Free and Reduced Lunch must pay the regular price for meals.

To qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program during the 2022-23 school year, families must fill out a 2022-23 Free and Reduced Lunch application or meet one of the following criteria:

  • Certified to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
  • Certified to participate in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF).
  • Foster child/family.

If you believe your family is eligible for meal benefits and you do not meet one of the above requirements, you are encouraged to apply as soon as possible at, even if you don’t plan to take advantage of this benefit.

Your application will help not only your family, but your entire school. This is because much of our district’s federal funding is based on how many student households qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. Approved applications will help generate additional funding for important student services such as staffing to provide extra academic support for all students, math and literacy curriculum, classroom and academic supplies, and assistance in covering extra-curricular activity costs for students in need. Your application is confidential.

Please also note that meal prices for the 2022-23 school year have increased as a result of inflation. To see meal prices and additional information on the Free & Reduced Lunch Program, please visit our Food Services page.

Mark your calendars

Helena Public Schools start dates are as follows:

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Grades 1-5, sixth grade, ninth grade, and PAL
Thursday, Sept. 1: Grades 7-8 and 10-12
Tuesday, Sept. 6: Kindergarten

Stay in the know

Together with the Board of Trustees, my team will be working on some major initiatives this school year, including a facilities master plan, a safety audit, and program reviews. We’ll also address the district’s projected budget shortfall.

Keeping you informed is a top priority and I will continue to send weekly Friday updates. If you know of grandparents or others who would like to receive updates, but are not parents or district employees, please encourage them to sign up at

And please remember to follow us on Facebook (@HelenaSchoolDistrict), Instagram (@HelenaPublicSchools) and Twitter (@SchoolsHelena).

As you shift into back-to-school mode, please watch your email for your student information update form. It is essential to update your student information and your contact info so you can receive email and text notifications from the district. The information update form will be sent to you by email next week.

I hope you enjoy these precious weeks of long evenings, outdoor barbecues, swimming and making summer memories with family and friends.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!


Signature: Rex M. Weltz, Superintendent

Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools