Dear Helena Public Schools Families and Staff,
An essential part of everything our students do is our facilities. From music practice space, to classrooms, to playing fields, we rely on facilities to keep our students learning, active and safe.
As parents, many of you also engage with our buildings almost every day. That’s why we need your feedback as part of the Master Facilities Planning process the district began last summer. Please watch your email next week for a link to the new Master Facilities Planning Survey. While it only takes five to 10 minutes to respond, your feedback will help us prioritize maintenance of existing buildings and plan for future construction needs as we look to the next 5, 10, 20 years and beyond.
I should note here that the funding source for our facilities is separate from the General Fund. The General Fund pays for people and programs.
The Facilities Budget, on the other hand, pays for the ongoing operation and maintenance of our existing buildings. The facilities budget is funded by the district’s 10-year Building Reserve Levy, an existing levy which we’re asking voters to renew in the May 2 election. Funding for any significant new construction in the future would need to come from a new, voter-approved bond. In 2017, for example, Helena voters approved a bond to build three new elementary schools.
The completed Master Facilities Plan will guide us in the wise use of resources as we plan our current and future facilities needs.
I would also like to thank all who participated in the recent budget survey regarding the shortfall in the district’s General Fund Budget. The survey is now closed and we’re reviewing your responses. Meanwhile, our work around the projected shortfall continues.
Like any organization facing a budget deficit, we’re reorganizing to bring our budget in line with funding while doing everything we can to minimize impacts to our stakeholders – in our case our students and staff. Recognizing how this funding uncertainty affects our school communities, we’re working to finalize decisions as soon as possible. I’ll provide further updates next week.
Despite these challenging times, our staff continues to serve our students inside and outside the classroom in so many ways, as you’ll see in the following announcements.
Shared traditions are what make our Helena Public Schools a community; and one of our most cherished annual events marked its 30th anniversary Monday evening at the Helena Civic Center.
Dozens of students took the stage in more than 20 acts for this year’s “Night to Shine” talent show, treating theater goers to an impressive cross section of talent, from Irish dancing, to Broadway, to classical vocal performances. History was even made as Helena High Junior McKennah Danielson dazzled the audience with her dog, Page, who is the first canine to perform in Night to Shine. Thank you to the Independent Record for capturing these stunning images of the evening.
In addition to the quality of the student performances, the show was impressively produced by the Helena and Capital High DECA clubs. For those aren’t familiar with DECA, it’s one of our district’s oldest student clubs with a focus on college and career preparedness. In April, Helena Public Schools will send an impressive 13 qualifiers to DECA’s International Career Development Conference in Orlando, Florida.
These outstanding student efforts come as we mark National Public Schools week. I believe that opportunities like DECA reflect one the greatest strengths of our public schools – the ability to choose from a wide breadth of student enrichment activities, be it music, drama, athletics, speech and debate, or one of the many other extracurricular programs our schools offer. Thank you to our students who work hard to participate in these life-changing activities and to our staff and volunteers who sustain them from one generation to the next.
On that very note, the Helena Middle School Band traveled to Missoula this week to participate in the University of Montana Concert Band Festival. Student musicians had the opportunity to be coached by professionals who have performed with the likes of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the New York City Opera, as well as for Broadway, film and television. Thank you to Instructional Coach Meghan Schulte for sharing these fun photos.
Please mark your calendars for the 8th-and 9th-grade Combined Orchestra Concert coming up Tuesday, March 14, at 6 pm at the HMS Auditorium. This is one not to miss, with performances by student musicians from both of our high schools and middle schools. Admission is free.
Congratulations are also in order for Lili Bennum, a senior at the district’s Project for Alternative Learning High School (PAL), who was featured this week as the Independent Record Student of the Month. A wrestler and avid outdoorswoman, Bennum is thriving at PAL, which is part of our district’s mission to provide all students with the opportunity to reach their full potential. Way to go, Lili!
In other district news, registration is now open for the lottery to admit students to the Helena Public Schools Montessori program. Families of all current kindergartners who are headed into first grade this fall are eligible to register for the lottery.
Helena Public Schools has nine Montessori classrooms with an emphasis on building independence and fostering rigorous, self-motivated growth in all areas of development. Up to 192 students are admitted to the program each year via the lottery.
If you’re considering Montessori for your student, I encourage you to register for the lottery as soon as possible. Lottery registration closes March 22, and families of students whose names are drawn must decide whether to enroll in the program within three days. Please visit our Helena Public Schools Montessori page to learn more.
As we head into the weekend, our Bengal and Bruin girls and boys basketball teams have already been on the court at the Western AA Divisional Basketball Tournament in Kalispell. Best of luck to our Bengal and Bruin boys teams, who are both headed into semi-final games this evening. The Bruins will play Missoula Hellgate at 6:30 p.m. and the Bengals will play Glacier High at 8 p.m. The Bengal girls won a loser-out game this morning and are scheduled for another loser-out game tomorrow morning. The Capital High Girls ended their season with a loser-out game this morning. Thank you, Lady Bruins, for all of your hard work and a great season!
And finally, I want to recognize the efforts of our staff who make our Helena student athletes a force to contend with. As we observe National Athletic Training month, please join me in taking a moment to say thank you to our physical education teachers, coaches and volunteers who help our student athletes perform their best.
Go Bengals! Go Bruins!
Rex Weltz, Superintendent
Helena Public Schools