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School leaders seek input on proposal to change traffic flow around Central School

Helena Public Schools leaders are asking the public to weigh in on a possible change to the traffic flow on 7th Avenue, aimed at improving parking around Central School.

The school district is working with the city of Helena on a proposal to make 7th Avenue a one-way street between Warren Street and Cruse Avenue. Drivers would only be able to go west, toward the 7th Avenue Gym. That change would create room for about 11 new angled parking spaces.

There will be a public meeting on the proposed change Thursday at 7 p.m., at the First Baptist Church. Superintendent Tyler Ream said the district handed out flyers Monday to announce the meeting.

Crews are currently finishing work on the new Central School building. In August, students and staff are set to return to the neighborhood for the first time since the old building was closed in 2013.

Ream said some nearby residents have expressed concerns that the school will not have enough parking, so employees and visitors might take up parking spots in the neighborhood. The campus is likely to have less than 20 spaces available.

“It simply doesn’t have the footprint right now to accommodate all the employees that will serve at the Central School,” Ream said.

District leaders hope the change on 7th Avenue would help address neighbors’ concerns.

“It would do two things: It would essentially provide additional parking for employees and for visitors to the school, and it would relieve some of the traffic that having a flow of traffic toward the neighborhood would cause,” he said.

The city requires a public meeting before a change in traffic flow can go forward. Ream said, in addition to the meeting, they will take public comment through email or other means.

The proposal will have to go before the Helena City Commission for final approval. Ream said the district is hopeful they can reach a decision before the school year starts.

The district is also working with the city on potentially setting aside some parking spaces on Lawrence Street for Central. That change would not require a public meeting, because it would not affect traffic.

-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News

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