LOCKWOOD and EAST HELENA — Montana will be adding two new high schools in the near future after taxpayers in Lockwood and East Helena voted in favor of building high schools in the two communities.
Lockwood will be the 10th high school in Yellowstone County, joining Billings Senior, Billings Skyview, Billings West, Billings Central, Laurel, Huntley Project, Shepherd, Broadview and Custer. The new Lockwood school could be completed as soon as 2021, according to KTVQ, and will include a 700-student school and a 3,000-person-capacity gymnasium.
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Lockwood will eventually be a Class A school, though it’s not yet clear when the school will start playing varsity sports. Billings Central, one of Class A’s smallest schools, and Laurel, one of the classification’s largest, already make up Yellowstone County’s oldest rivalry competing in the Eastern A, which would be a logical destination for Lockwood. The Eastern A currently consists of six teams — Billings Central, Laurel, Hardin, Miles City, Glendive and Sidney — but could soon be losing at least one program to Class B football.
Senior, Skyview and West are Class AA schools, and all have enrollments of at least 1,500 students. Senior and West are the second- and third-largest schools in Montana, trailing only Bozeman. Voters in Bozeman recently approved the addition of second high school to be opened in the fall of 2020.
Huntley Project and Shepherd compete in Class B athletics, while Broadview, which co-ops with neighboring Lavina, and Custer, which co-ops with Hysham, play in Class C.
The new East Helena school could be operational by the 2020-21 school year, according to KTVH, and, like Lockwood, will be a Class A-sized school.
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East Helena will be the fifth high school in Lewis and Clark County, joining Class AA schools Helena High and Helena Capital and Class C schools Lincoln and Augusta.
Original projections had East Helena competing in the Central A conference for sports alongside Belgrade, Havre, Lewistown and Livingston. Belgrade, though, is set to move up to Class AA in the 2019-20 school year.
Dennis Murphy, the Havre athletic director and Class A representative on the Montana High School Association executive board, told MTN Sports in April that the class was in limbo regarding conference alignments moving forward. Murphy said discussions have taken place to explore conference possibilities but noted that the fluid state of enrollments across Montana makes it difficult to try to look too far into the future.
Class A currently features 22 schools: six in the Eastern A, four in the Central A and 12 more in western Montana. Browning, Butte Central, Columbia Falls, Corvallis, Dillon, Frenchtown, Hamilton, Libby, Polson, Ronan, Stevensville and Whitefish currently combine to make up the Southwestern A and Northwestern A.