Friday Message from Superintendent Weltz | December 8, 2023

Dear Families,

In the fall of 2022, the district launched a Facilities Master Planning process to develop a roadmap to guide our district as we invest in school buildings and grounds over the next five, 10, 20 years and beyond.

This long-needed work will allow our district to be proactive, rather than reactive, around our facility needs. It will enable us to make informed decisions as we invest in existing school facilities and build new ones for our community to learn, work, play, perform and gather. And it will enable us to be responsible stewards of your taxpayer dollars as we do so.

As I’ve shared in previous updates, this work is being led by Helena-based SMA Architecture + Design. The first phase of SMA’s work was gathering up-to-date baseline information on our schools and grounds. This included prioritizing projects in the district’s maintenance backlog of approximately $90 million, which has compounded over many years.

Meanwhile, SMA has assessed future needs based on a wide range of factors. These include enrollment forecasts, economic growth forecasts, budgetary considerations and changing safety and security needs.

Central to this work was input from you – our parents, staff and community. Thanks to all of you who shared feedback by responding to the district’s facilities planning survey last spring. SMA also met regularly with an ad hoc committee of approximately 40 stakeholders including parents, educators and community leaders.

Through a series of community engagements, the following priorities have been identified as our guiding principles, our “North Stars” on the district’s Facilities Master Planning journey:

  • Safety and security
  • 21st Century learning facilities
  • Flexibility for the future
  • Equity across the district
  • Balanced budget

In early 2024, SMA will present a draft “Facilities Master Plan” (FMP) document – developed around these priorities – to the Board of Trustees for consideration.

The plan will recommend multiple options for elementary, middle, high school and other district facilities. These options range from maintaining all existing schools with recommended renovations and additions, to consolidating schools and building new facilities.

Our community cares deeply about our schools and our district is committed to creating a safe, healthy environment for all of our kids to learn and grow. That’s why the MFP process, which is long overdue, is so important. We owe it to our children to be informed, visionary, strategic and responsive to our community’s wishes as we plan the district’s future.

SMA has kept the Board of Trustees’ Facilities & Maintenance Committee up to date throughout the planning process and will give Trustees an in-depth walk-through of the FMP when they present the draft document early next year. Trustees will then engage in a robust review and discussion of the FMP and, while I’ll continue to keep you informed, I encourage you to follow this public process. Upcoming board meetings are posted at this link.

When the FMP is finalized and approved by Trustees, it will be used as a guiding document for facilities decisions – a resource to inform, a road map from which to determine the best route forward.

Under district policy, any substantive facilities actions must be considered by the Board’s Facilities & Maintenance Committee. Actions are then presented to the full Board of Trustees for multiple readings in advance of a vote, all of which is open to the public.

I appreciate your attention to this process and am excited as we approach new milestones on this important journey.

On another topic, I would like to again congratulate Food Services Director Robert Worthy, who successfully applied for a $29,000 “Local Food for School” grant from the Office of Public Instruction. Mr. Worthy will use the funds to purchase Montana-raised bison, Flathead cherries and Montana-grown vegetables into the district’s school lunch program.

Bison is up first, and Mr. Worthy wants to know how you would like your Montana-raised meat served. Creamy beef Stroganoff anyone? Wholesome Shepherd’s Pie? Let us know by filling out the survey at this link! I look forward to sharing the top recipes.

In other news, the district’s School-Aged Child Care (SACC) program has openings during Winter Break at Smith School. Days will be filled with festive crafts and activities as well as free time inside and out. Space is limited. For more information, please contact Jamie Merrill at

I hope those of you who’ve attended winter performances this week have enjoyed seeing the learning and growth that has happened since the beginning of the school year. Up next week are band concerts for Capital High School and CR Anderson Middle School as well as the Helena High Choir winter concert and the CHS/HHS advanced orchestra concert at the Capitol Rotunda. Winter performances are also scheduled at Kessler, Smith and Hawthorne elementary schools. Find full concert details on the district Fine & Performing Arts page.

Have a wonderful weekend with your family!

Signature: Rex M. Weltz

Rex M. Weltz
Superintendent, Helena Public Schools