Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,
Winter weather has arrived, and while this week’s snow flurries were just a sampler, it’s a good time to review severe weather protocols.
Our Transportation team monitors the weather closely and is prepared to deal with our usual cold, snow and ice. When severe weather does create safety issues, we strive to announce school closures or late starts no later than 5:30 a.m. Families will be notified via email and will also find information at helenaschools.org under Transportation and via Facebook (@helenaschooldistrict) and Twitter (@schoolshelena).
It’s also time to make sure your student has warm winter gear. If your child needs a coat, gloves, hat or shoes, please talk with your school secretary or your child’s teacher, who can help connect you with winter clothing.
As Montanans, we know how to plan and how to adapt when conditions change. We dress in layers. We change out our tires and carry a snow shovel in the truck. We keep a close eye on our favorite weather app and monitor road conditions to plan our routes. I’m reminded of this as we move through the first phase of our Master Facilities Planning process. At the start of the school year, I shared with you that the district hired Montana-based SMA Architecture + Design last summer to guide development of a district Master Facilities Plan.
In the same way that we plan for road trips, the facilities planning process will guide our district’s journey into the future. The team will assess current facility needs, forecast future needs, determine where we want to go, and lay out a plan to get us there. The resulting Master Facilities Plan will be a living, breathing document that will be adapted as conditions change.
In a nutshell, the Master Facilities Planning process is an opportunity to determine what we want the future of education to look like in Helena, Montana, and how we should invest in our facilities to support that vision.
Over the course of the past year, the district has carried out a Deferred Maintenance Assessment, a Security Audit and interviews with building principals to assess our current facilities. The SMA team is using this information in the first phase of the planning process, which includes data collection and analysis. The team will also include data such as demographic and enrollment projections, real estate assessments, boundaries, 21st Century technology needs and many other factors.
Another component of the first phase is gathering community input, which began this week as SMA conducted a visioning session with an ad hoc committee of parents, business leaders, educators, community leaders and other stakeholders. The ad hoc committee will guide outreach to the broader Helena community. This is an essential step, because our public schools serve everyone – business owners seeking skilled graduates, senior citizens looking for volunteer opportunities, community groups using district facilities, job seekers, sports fans and many more.
The community input we gather will inform the development of the Draft Master Facilities Plan, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees in July, with the aim of adopting a finalized plan in September. I’ll keep you informed of opportunities to participate as we move forward.
While this thorough and comprehensive planning process will take time, it will give us the best possible roadmap to ensure that our facilities meet our community’s educational needs.
In other district news, I’m pleased to introduce our new District Human Resources Director, Keri Mizell. Keri joins us from Olympia, Washington, where she was Human Resources Division Director for the Washington Military Department. Keri is eager to explore Montana with her two sons – a teen and a tween – and their beloved German shepherd, while their cat relaxes at home.
Please join us in welcoming Keri to this critical role, to which she brings a wide and deep breadth of experience in recruitment, equity and inclusion, training and development, payroll and benefits, and many other leadership areas.
Keri is committed to serving our employees, whose excellence was in the spotlight again this week as the Helena Education Foundation presented its “Spark” and “Great Ideas” grants to 14 educators across the district. I was honored to join the HEF team to award the grants, which help educators bring new and innovative ideas, projects, and experiences to their students.
Projects to be launched with this year’s grants include everything from “Step Back in Time: Recreating Montana’s Ghost Towns” by PEAK Teacher Coburn Currier to “Electrifying Interest in Electrical Careers” by Capital High School Welding Teacher Tom Kain. We look forward to sharing stories of these projects in action. See the complete list of grantees and their projects on our Student & Staff Recognitions page.
I would like to extend our deepest thanks to the Helena Education Foundation and its generous donors for making these projects possible.
I would also like to congratulate our talented students who are winners in the Last Chance Community Pow Wow Poster Contest. From kindergarten through high school, these young artists created images that embody Native Pride and capture the spirit of this year’s pow wow, which was themed “Honor the Children.” You can view their beautiful work via our Student and Educator Recognitions page.
On the sports front, a belated congratulations to our Capital High Girls Cross Country Team, which took 5th place at state. News of their win fell during a short school week with no Friday newsletter. Thank you, Bruin Girls XC, for a strong finish for Helena. And congratulations to the Helena High Boys for their 5th place finish. We appreciate you!
It’s a big day for high school sports, with the Capital High and Helena High Girls Volleyball Teams going head-to-head this evening at 6 p.m. in Missoula at the Western AA Girls Volleyball Tournament. The winner will advance to the Western AA title match Saturday.
And good luck to our Bengal and Bruin football teams as they enter the MHSA Football Quarter Final Games starting today at Vigilante Stadium. The Bengals are playing Gallatin now and the Bruins take on Butte at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the gate. Please help us cheer on our home teams!
Finally, don’t forget to turn back your clocks before you go to bed Saturday night for Daylight Savings Time. We’ll miss the longer evenings, but the brighter mornings will certainly be better as students commute to school.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools