People have already sent in more than 5,000 votes expressing their preferences for naming Bozeman’s second high school.

The deadline for people to express their opinions on names is Wednesday, March 20, at 5 p.m. on the school district website (www.bsd7.org) or at the school district’s central office (404 W. Main St.).

School Superintendent Rob Watson said Friday that the last time he checked with Karin Neff, the data specialist who’s conducting the online survey, more than 5,000 votes had come in.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Watson said. “I’m hoping folks are only voting once.”

The poll is only accepting one vote per internet service provider address, but people could game the system by using different computers, so it’s not a scientific survey.

At the same time, Neff is conducting a more scientific, random sample of student and staff opinions. Results aren’t in yet.

Asked which of the five names under consideration for the school are leading in popularity, Watson said he didn’t know.

“I don’t want to know until the polling is over with,” he said, not wanting to influence people’s votes.

All the opinion surveys will be delivered to the Bozeman School Board trustees, who plan to meet March 25, discuss the results and choose a name. The public opinion survey isn’t binding on trustees.

They tried to pick a name Feb. 25 from three finalists forwarded by the 20-member naming committee – Westslope, Spanish Peaks and Storm Castle. Those were culled from some 700 ideas sent in by the public.

Trustees picked Westslope, a nod to the cutthroat trout that’s the state fish, as well as to the school’s view of the west slope of the Bridgers.

But after a public outcry and criticism that the public hadn’t been given a chance to weigh in on the finalists, trustees voted 5-3 to seek more public comment to make sure the new school’s name has wide appeal.

They asked the naming committee to add two more names to the list of finalists, and Gallatin and West were the top choices.

People interested in expressing their opinion can go to the Bozeman School District website, click on the High School Name, Colors, Mascot logo, and follow the links to the community survey on names.

Meanwhile, more than 1,200 people have written in with suggestions for the school’s mascot and colors. Those ideas can be submitted until March 29. The high school Transition Committee will meet sometime the first week of April to start discussing those ideas.

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

Gail Schontzler covers schools and Montana State University for the Chronicle.

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