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In opinion polls for naming Bozeman’s second high school, the leading name among students, staff and community members is Gallatin High School.

Bozeman School Board trustees meet Monday night and are expected to vote then to pick one of five finalist names for the school.

On Friday Bozeman School Superintendent Rob Watson released the results of an online community survey, in which 9,347 opinions were submitted.

Gallatin High School was far ahead with 43 percent in this survey. It was followed by Spanish Peaks, 19 percent; West Bozeman, 17 percent; Storm Castle, 14 percent; and Westslope, 8 percent.

The survey is not scientific but does give some insight into community interest and perhaps a favorite name, Watson wrote. The board can consider the surveys, but it has the final decision.

“Gallatin beat all the rest of them,” Watson said, but he pointed out that in one version of the student survey, Gallatin and Storm Castle were statistically tied.

Some 1,934 fifth- through ninth-graders in Bozeman and rural schools responded by email to the chance to help name the new school.

In that large student survey, Gallatin got 30 percent, followed by Storm Castle with 26 percent, Spanish Peaks 22 percent, West 13 percent and Westslope 9 percent.

From that survey, school officials drew a scientific, random sample of 485 students, to make sure it had a representative sample of grades and east and west sides of town. The percentage results were identical.

Watson said since the scientific version of the student poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, Gallatin and Storm Castle were statistically tied.

In a separate survey of 318 school staff members, Gallatin got 39 percent, Spanish Peaks 22 percent, West 18 percent, Westslope 12 percent and Storm Castle 11 percent.

One name not in the opinion surveys was that of Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, a Bozeman High School graduate who was killed in 2007 while serving in the Iraq War. He is to be awarded the Medal of Honor next week in Washington to honor his sacrificing his own life to save fellow soldiers from a bomber.

Several people have recently advocated naming the new school for Atkins as a hometown hero.

Watson wrote that when the district invited the community to submit names for the month leading up to Feb. 15, some 716 names were submitted. Atkins’ name wasn’t among them, so it wasn’t considered during meetings of the naming committee and school focus groups.

“This was not meant to dishonor Staff Sgt. Atkins’ incredible military career, his sacrifice for our country and his recent award of the Medal of Honor,” Watson wrote.

To add more names now, the school would need to restart the process from the beginning, Watson said, “to make sure everything was fair for people who have already participated in the process.”

Watson pointed out that Bozeman High School has an Honor Hall that recognizes students who died serving their country, next to the Freedom Shrine of key documents from U.S. history.

Three veterans are honored there with photos, plaques and American flags — Atkins, Hal Henderson, who died in the Vietnam War in 1969, and Thomas Code, who died in Vietnam in 1972. Those are the only three soldiers that Bozeman High is aware of — there may be others, Watson said.

Meanwhile, people can still submit suggestions for a mascot and school colors on the Bozeman School District website,, until Friday, March 29.

Originally the 20-member naming committee sent three names to the school board, which voted in February to name the school Westslope, after the Montana state fish, the cutthroat. After a public backlash over the name and the lack of opportunity for the larger community to weigh in on the finalists, school board trustees reconsidered and voted 5-3 to ask the naming committee to add two more names to its list of recommendations. They came up with Gallatin and West. Watson then created opinion surveys for students, staff and the community with all five names, saying the school name should have broad appeal.

School policy calls for trustees to choose from between three and five names forwarded by a naming committee.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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