Montana Cities Pass School Bonds for New Construction

Bozeman, Helena, and East Helena voters approve funds for schools

By Molly Priddy

BOZEMAN — Three Montana cities have passed school bonds for construction, including a $125 million bond in Bozeman to build a new high school and remodel the current one.

School districts throughout the state held elections Tuesday to choose school board members and request operating levies.

About 65 percent of voters in the Bozeman High School district approved the bond, the largest ever requested of area voters and $45 million more than the $80 million infrastructure bond rejected by the Montana Legislature on the last day of the 2017 session.

“I’m excited for the future of our community,” Bozeman Schools Superintendent Rob Watson told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Tuesday. “I feel happy that our voters have placed trust in us to do this work. I’m confident we’re going to do a great job.”

Watson said they hope to break ground on the new high school next spring and have it ready to open by the fall of 2020. The current high school has about 2,000 students — making it the largest school in the state — and the city’s population is growing.

Six months ago, Bozeman voters rejected a $70 million bond to rebuild and expand the county Law and Justice Center.

In Helena, nearly 75 percent of voters approved a $63 million bond to replace three elementary schools just two years after voters rejected a $70 million bond. Helena hasn’t built a new elementary school in 40 years.

Superintendent Jack Copps said the margin by which the bond passed surpassed his expectations.

“As school employees, we need to make sure we provide the best results, the best quality education that’s offered in this state. And we need to make sure that continues to happen,” Copps told the Independent Record.

In East Helena, two-thirds of voters approved a $12 million bond for a new school for first- and second-graders and to add five classrooms to the middle school to accommodate increasing enrollment.

East Helena Schools Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer has said they hope to break ground on the new elementary school in July and have it ready for students by August 2018.

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