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School District will listen to public on fate of Helper JHS

Extensive remodeling on Helper Junior High in 2002 tided over the needs of the building, students and staff until now. The Board of Education is considering what to do about the facility,

Sun Advocate publisher

A series of "town hall' meetings will be held the end of November and into the beginning of December by the Carbon County Board of Education to discuss the future of the district and particularly the future of Helper Junior High School.

"Before I became superintendent and for the last two years the board has been discussing what needs to be done with Helper Junior High," said Carbon District Superintendent Steve Carlsen on Friday. "Discussion has been on long term planning and what to do about the facility."

Carlsen said that despite the district spending money on remodels and retrofitting of the almost 80- year-old building, it still doesn't meet the needs of the modern era of education in terms of structure, infrastructure and educational opportunity.

"There are a lot of seismic issues with the building as well as the fact that they are having a hard time making wireless connections work in the building," he said. "The board's intent is to look at the possibility of constructing a replacement for it."

The school, which presently houses about 180 students, has been a fixture in Helper since the 1930s. What can be done to replace it will be the point of discussion at the meetings.

The board is looking for comments from all quarters of the community. Because of that they are going to hold meetings in Price (Nov. 28 at the Carbon District office multi-purpose room), in East Carbon/Sunnyside (Nov. 30 at Bruin Point Elementary) and in Helper (Dec. 6 at Helper Junior High). All the meetings will take place at 6 p.m. those evenings.

Presently the board is looking to purchase land in Helper to build a new junior high. That is what some of the discussion will be centered on.

Carlsen said they are looking at various ideas as to what to do with the old building should a new one be built.

While there are other options other than building a new facility, none of those are really viable. Only so much could be done with a remodeling project, so that is basically out. If the district shut the building down and sent all the students to Mont Harmon Junior High in Price, that would put the only other junior high in the district with over 800 students, which most educators say is too large a school of its type to administer properly.

As for cost, buying property and building a new school could fit into the district's bonding capacity without it having to raise taxes to do so.

"We will be retiring some bonds in 2016," said Darin Lancaster, the district's business manager. "New bonds could be issued then to cover the cost of a new facility. Of course we also need to point out that when those bonds that are now being paid retire, the taxes that were approved to pay for them could be withdrawn as well. The public needs to know there are two sides to this."

The pair reiterated that nothing is set in stone as of yet and the district is just exploring possibilities of what could be done.

"The board definitely wants people's input on the issue," concluded Carlsen.

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