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Helena School District celebrates progress on new Jim Darcy at “topping out” ceremony

HELENA – On Thursday morning, leaders celebrated a major milestone in the construction of the new Jim Darcy School in the north Helena Valley.

“This is a remarkable day,” said Jim Darcy principal Brian Cummings.

The Helena School District held a “topping out” ceremony, as ironworkers placed the last large steel beam at the top of the new structure. Local families wrote their names and messages on the beam before it was installed.

It’s been about 200 days since the Helena School District broke ground on three new elementary schools – Bryant, Central and Jim Darcy. In 2017, district voters approved a $63 million bond issue to pay for replacing those three school buildings and making security and technology improvements at the other 10 elementary and middle schools.

The current Jim Darcy School has been overcrowded for years, as the population in the North Valley has grown significantly. The new facility will offer 67,000 square feet of space – more than double what the current school has. It will house about 500 students.

Cummings said the progress on the new building has been dramatic.

“Being on the actual project site, and also having school while the new building is being built, is incredibly exciting,” he said.

The new school was designed by DSA Architects, and Dick Anderson Construction is the lead contractor.

Construction on the new Jim Darcy is still less than halfway complete. Cummings estimated there are about 280 days left to finish the new building.

School district leaders plan to open all three new elementary schools in August 2019. Cummings thanked the community for their support of the bond that made the new schools possible.

“We walk out here each day and we look at this project and can’t believe it’s real,” he said. “It doesn’t get old to look at this new building each day when we come out for recess or when we come to work or when we leave work. It just feels so good that we’re so close.”

School district leaders say Bryant School will not hold a “topping out” ceremony, but they will have a celebration in the coming weeks when they complete work on a bridge connecting the main school building to the gym. Central School principal John Stilson said he has not yet decided if and when they will hold that type of ceremony.

Jonathon Ambarian

Jonathon Ambarian

Jonathon Ambarian grew up in Southern California, and graduated from the University of Montana in Missoula. He first came to Helena in 2013, to cover the Montana Legislature, and returned in 2016 as a reporter with the Montana Television Network. He's proud to bring viewers stories about the issues that affect them.
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