BILLINGS, Mont. — Voters in East Helena and Lockwood have overwhelmingly approved taking preliminary steps toward building new high schools in the communities.

The votes were made possible by legislation signed into state law this spring that gave elementary-only school districts with more than 1,000 students the right to expand.

The measures were approved by more than two-thirds of voters in each community in ballots counted Tuesday.

The school districts now have two years within which to ask voters to approve construction bonds.

The East Helena School Board is expected to take up the issue at a Monday meeting. East Helena officials have estimated they’ll need a construction bond of about $25 million.

East Helena students are in the Helena High School district and students in Lockwood attend high schools in neighboring Billings.

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