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New law would allow East Helena to create a high school - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

New law would allow East Helena to create a high school

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HELENA -

East Helena and two other elementary school districts in Montana will now have the opportunity to build their own high schools, as Governor Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 139 into law Tuesday.

The new law will allow elementary school districts with more than a thousand students expand into K-12 districts, if voters approve a bond for a high school.

The only school districts that meet the requirements are East Helena, Lockwood, and Hellgate. Students there currently attend high school in Helena, Billings and Missoula, respectively.

Supporters say the change lets communities take more control over education.

SB 139 includes several changes from the 2015 bill, designed to make it fairer to the larger districts students would be leaving. It removed a provision that would have divided the larger district’s assets with the new high school district. It also calls on students to transition to the new high school over several years, one grade level at a time.

While the last legal hurdle to these districts expanding is now gone, they’re still a long way from opening high schools.

East Helena superintendent Ron Whitmoyer says building a high school would likely be at least a five- or six-year process.

SB 139 was sponsored by Sen. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip).

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