This is the final week of the year for Helena Public Schools, and for staff at three elementary schools, it’s been a particularly hectic time.
Administrators at Bryant, Central and Jim Darcy Elementary Schools have spent the last few weeks packing hundreds of boxes of supplies. They will have to move out of their school buildings just a few days after classes end.
“We’ve been undergoing the packing-up and moving-out process now for easily two months,” said Superintendent Tyler Ream.
Crews are currently building three new elementary schools to replace Bryant, Central and Jim Darcy. The new facilities are set to open their doors in August.
Bryant and Jim Darcy will move into new buildings on their current campuses. Central will leave its temporary home at Lincoln School and return to its original neighborhood, six years after the former Central School building was closed over safety concerns.
To prepare for the moves, staff members have had to box up everything from teaching materials to library books. Librarians from around the district spent several hours at Bryant and Central to help them pack their books away.
“The staffs at all three schools have done a terrific job of kind of proactively thinking through what they need for the end of the year, and packing anything else,” Ream said.
Thursday will be the last day of classes. All three schools will hold closing ceremonies to officially end their time in the current buildings. Bryant’s will be at 9 a.m., Central’s will be at 10 a.m. and Jim Darcy’s will be at 11 a.m.
“We’ll have an opportunity to honor everybody that has attended school, been an educator or served in that school,” said Ream. “It’s an important process for us as we transition to the new schools.”
Bryant and Jim Darcy staff will have to be out of their buildings by the end of this week. Starting next week, crews will begin demolishing the old buildings. The sites must be cleared in just a few months, as they will become part of the new schools’ playgrounds.
“We’ll have to go through that process quite quickly to ensure that we have the time that we need over the summer, so that we are done by late July,” said Ream.
Bryant Principal Trish Klock said she allowed students to add some art to the current school’s hallways over their final weeks in the building. That included a large painting reading, “We are not what we know, but what we are willing to learn.”
The Lincoln School facility will remain in operation once Central moves out. Ream said there are no plans to hold classes there next year, but some employees will continue to work there, and the spaces will be used for professional development and other activities.
That means Central staff doesn’t necessarily have to be out of the Lincoln facility by the end of the week. However, principal John Stilson said it’s his goal to have everyone out by then, so that employees can walk out and not have to come back.
Ream said there is still a lot of work to be done on the new schools, but they are on track to be completed by the end of July. That would mean the district could take possession and begin moving in well before the start of the school year.
“We’re beyond excited at this point,” said Ream. “We’re right there at the finish line.”
The three new elementary schools were funded through a $63 million bond issue that Helena School District voters approved in 2017. That bond also paid for security and technology upgrades at the district’s other elementary and middle schools.
-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News