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Rams fans applaud plan to keep HJHS open

Sun Advocate associate editor

Of all the options on what to do about the future of Helper Junior High School, one is not on the table: closing the school.

Although Carbon School Board President Wayne Woodward did comment that a future school board might think differently, his statement that this board wants the HJHS Rams to have a home was enough to draw a round of applause in the school gym Thursday night.

The crowd came to the school to hear the third of three briefings by board members and district officials about the school's future.

At Helper, as at previous sessions in Price and East Carbon, district financial officer Darren Lancaster explained that closing the school and merging with Mont Harmon in Price would not save a significant amount of money.

While the distrrict might save a bit less than $500,000 with the merger, that would be offset by a loss in some $370,000 from state funds for Necessarily Existent Small Schools.

Must consider growth

Also, as Superintendent Steve Carlsen noted, filling Mont Harmon would not leave room to accommodate any future enrollment growth.

So the question is where the Rams will call home in the future. The decision that the board and then the voters in Carbon County will have to make is whether to keep the students in their current Depression-era building or build a new one on a bigger lot a few blocks west of Workmen's Market.

Cost of the new building would be between $7- and $9 million, but the district has been saving money and by 2016 it should have half that much in a capital improvement account.

Lancaster noted that the district will also be retiring bonds in 2016 and 2022. That means a property tax increase would probably not be necessary. On the other hand, he said, it would also mean no property tax cut.

Walter Borla, lifelong Helper resident and former school board member, commented that the district should seriously consider keeping the old school open. He noted the $1 million or so in renovations that have been performed in the past decade.

However, responses from board members indicated that the 1936 building is probably not up to modern seismic standards.

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