MISSOULA – A tour of the new Hellgate Middle School makes you almost wish you could go here.
Designed more like a high school, the space and features have prepared this district for the future.
“A credit to the school board for their vision. This, we think we’ve accommodated all aspects of what we want to do with our middle school in terms of academics and activities,” said Hellgate School District Superintendent Dr. Doug Reisig.
Construction started 18 months ago, shortly after voters in the district approved an almost $20 million bond.
This new 84,000-square-foot facility has 22 new classrooms, a library and media center with a fireplace. A media wall greets you in the main entryway. There’s a brand-new gym and classrooms for woodshop and family/consumer science.
The centerpiece to the new Hellgate Middle School is a high-tech, 500-seat performing arts center that can accommodate concerts, science fairs or even corporate events.
Students will probably feel a little more grown-up when walking these hallways.
“One of the things that the school board wanted to make sure we could do was separate the 7th and 8th grade students from our younger kids,” Reisig said. “There’s a big developmental difference between a 6th grade student and an 8th grade student and if we can keep those younger kids children as long as we can I think that’s a real plus for us.”
The district is waiting until fall to officially open the school. It’s going to free up a lot of space in the three other buildings on campus, preparing the school for the possibility of publicly-funded preschool in the future and inevitable growth in the district.
“We’ve been feeling the pressure every year, with the building every year and the apartments going up,” said Hellgate School Board Chair Tom McLaughlin. “Luckily, we had a little foresight down the road to get ahead of the thing and I think we’re ahead of things now for the next ten years, at least.”
It was a fun project for Jackson Contractors who incorporated space, safety and style.
“It was neat to have not just the students come in, but their parents who say ‘holy smokes!’ It’s been really, really fun,” said Jackson Contractor Group’s Tyler Kirk.
The first event at the new middle school will be 8th grade graduation in June, which will be held in the brand-new school gym.