Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | December 16, 2022

In today’s update:

  • Cold snap ahead: Refresher on severe weather protocols
  • Student musicians accepted to All-State Jazz Band and Northwest Division Conference
  • CHS student donates 1,000 cans of food to Helena Food Share
  • HHS substitute wins UpSkill-a-Thon
  • Montana Chamber Foundation & Microsoft Philanthropies offer digital skills courses


Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,

It’s going to get chilly next week.

The temperature will start plunging Saturday afternoon, and by Wednesday our daytime highs could be well below zero.

Our Transportation team will watch the incoming cold front closely over the weekend. If temperatures or windchills drop to extreme levels, please be prepared for potential delayed or canceled bus routes next week.

Watch for updates Monday morning via your email, on the Transportation website and via Facebook (@HelenaSchoolDistrict) or Twitter (@schoolshelena).

Bottom line: Be sure to bundle up your kiddos. Frostbite and hypothermia happen fast in extreme cold, but can occur at any temperature below freezing, depending on the length of exposure. A few reminders as we approach next week’s cold snap:

  • Please do not leave children unattended at bus stops in severe cold or snow.
  • We ask that no students walk home when temperatures are below zero.
  • In subzero temperatures, students who ride the bus will be kept inside until their bus is in place.
  • In subzero temperatures, students who are dropped off by parents will be brought inside as soon as buildings open.
  • After school, students will be supervised for quick pick-ups outside and then brought back inside to await late arrivals.


In this beautiful mountain valley that we’re so fortunate to call home, inversions can cause temperatures to vary dramatically from school to school, based on elevation. A school closer to town may be at 10 degrees above zero with no wind, while another school out in the valley may be at 10 below with windchill. Each school checks the weather station closest to their location throughout the day to determine the safest plan for their students, and indoor recess is held when the temp is below zero.

If you’re new to winter weather, our Transportation website offers tips on dressing for the cold. And please don’t hesitate to let your school principal, counselor or secretary know if your family is in need of coats, hats, gloves or boots; they will be happy to connect you with winter wear.

We’ve got this!

Giving campaigns flourish

While the forecast is bitter, my spirit is warmed by the tremendous outpouring of support over the past few weeks for district families in need. From the raucous Kiss-A-Pig fundraiser at Rossiter Elementary to the quiet charity of a giving tree for families at Capital High, our students and staff are taking care of their school communities over the holidays.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to share this holiday season, please find out how to participate in giving opportunities at your school, your church, your service club, your gym or other community organizations.

And if you find yourself or your family in need of support, please know that your school community and our larger Helena community are here for you. It’s not too late to sign up for a holiday meal with all the fixings through Helena Food Share. Sign-ups must be submitted by 5 pm Sunday at

Please also check out this list of resources for assistance with home heating, meals, mental health, and other support.

Late father inspires generosity

One Bruin, with the help of the Capital High Student Council and the CHS National Honor Society, made a remarkable contribution this season. CHS Senior Mason Hays used his own money to purchase 1,000 cans of corn and beans for his school’s food drive.

Mason pulled up to Helena Food Shares on Monday afternoon to unload the cans from the back of his pickup. When we caught up with Mason to ask him what inspired him to donate the food, which he ordered from a local grocer, he said he was inspired by his late father.

“My dad was always a giving person,” Mason said. “He always taught me to be giving. When he passed, he just inspired me with helping out people in general.”

I never cease to be amazed by what our students are capable of.

Even before Mason’s generous donation, Capital High students had ramped up their seasonal charity drives this year. In November, all CHS school club leaders gathered at an All Curricular Club Meeting to brainstorm how they can better coordinate and support each other. One of the initiatives from that gathering was a joint food drive co-managed by the Student Council and the National Honor Society.

And these Capital High students are in good company. From elementary school to high school, charity drives are inspiring generosity throughout the district. Thank you to our students, staff, PTOs and families for your gifts of financial support, food, clothing and time. Your efforts are appreciated.

Substitute teacher wins Upskill-a-Thon

In educator recognitions, I’m pleased to congratulate Andy Mulraney, a substitute teacher who often works at Helena High, for winning a second place prize worth $1,000 in the Montana Chamber Foundation’s Upskill-a-Thon! The competition challenged Montanans to complete online training courses in everything from software development to project management. The free-of-charge course offerings were launched in October by CSI Montana, a collaboration of the Montana Chamber Foundation and Microsoft Philanthropies. The goal is to help jobseekers, professionals and students gain new skills for in-demand roles in the digital economy.

Mr. Mulraney earned the cash award by completing the second-highest number of course hours and certificates in his age category. While the competition is over, the free courses will be available to all Montanans through October 2023 at

Student musicians accepted to All-State Jazz Band

I also have some special student recognitions to share. Helena High School’s Ryan Burk (senior, alto saxophone) and Carson Payne (sophomore, trumpet) have been accepted to the All-State Jazz Band!

To be considered for the prestigious band, Ryan and Carson submitted audition recordings demonstrating their proficiency in a variety of musical styles as well as an improvisational section.

The student musicians will play with other top talent from across the state at the upcoming All-State Jazz Band festival in Missoula.

Congratulations to Ryan, Carson and Helena High School Band Director Cody Hollow for representing Helena at this gathering of Montana’s best student jazz musicians!

And a big congratulations to High School Orchestra Director Zach Harris and four of his students who are headed to Bellevue, Washington, in February to play in the National Association for Music Education’s Northwest Division Conference.

Bruins Maren Elliott (CHS, violin 1), Charlie Snellman (CHS, cello) and Hollis Elliott (CHS, cello), along with Bengal Aine Cleary (HHS, cello), were among those chosen from more than 3,000 applicants to play in the Division Conference from across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Bravo to Maren, Charlie, Hollis and Aine!

More winter concerts

If you want to hear why our student musicians are competing at the highest levels, there are still opportunities to catch their magical winter concerts.

  • Tomorrow, Dec. 17, the Capital High and Helena High Xpress Singers will perform live at 3 pm at St. Paul’s Methodist Church.
  • On Monday, our high school and middle school musicians will fill the Montana State Capitol Rotunda with holiday magic at their Winter Concert from 12:30 – 1:30 pm.
  • On Tuesday, the Helena High and Capital High orchestras will present their Gala Winter Concert at 7 pm in the CHS Auditorium.

Each of these free concerts is an opportunity to slow down and let our remarkable student musicians feed your soul.

Stay warm and safe out there!


Signature: Rex M. Weltz

Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools