Hellgate High School

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Coordinates: 46°51′47″N 113°59′51″W / 46.8630°N 113.9974°W / 46.8630; -113.9974

Hellgate High School
900 Higgins Ave.
Missoula, Montana, 59801
United States USA
School type Public, secondary school
School district Missoula County Public Schools District No. 1
Principal Lisa Hendrix
Assistant principals Lynn M. Farmer
Grades 9–12
Student to teacher ratio 14.6[1]
Language English
Campus Urban
Color(s) Red & Gold
Team name Knights
Communities served Missoula

Hellgate High School is located in Missoula, Montana. It is the largest high school in the Missoula County Public Schools District of Montana in terms of student body population. Hellgate has approximately 1,200 students, and a faculty of approximately 100.[1] It is classified as an AA high school, the classification given to the largest high schools in Montana. It is ranked the fourth best high school in the state of Montana by US News, beating the district's Sentinel, which is ranked sixth in the state, and both Big Sky and Seeley-Swan which are unranked.[2]


Knight: Hellgate Mascot

First established in 1908 as Missoula County High School, the school was later renamed Hellgate High, shortly after the foundation of Sentinel High School.[3] Hellgate is one of the oldest high school buildings in the State of Montana. It is a three-story building blending several different forms of architecture, with a network of underground tunnels.

On September 24, 1952, the morning after giving his Checkers speech, Republican vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon spoke at the school. He denied that politics was a dirty game, and stated that if students thought it was, they should get involved and clean it up.

The name Hellgate High School was not used until well after the building now known as Sentinel High School opened in 1956. Originally what is now known as Sentinel was to be the new Missoula County High School replacing what is now known as Hellgate. As Missoula grew, classes were slowly returned to the Hellgate building. First the Freshman class, then Sophomores. In the mid-1960s Hellgate and Sentinel were created as separate four year high schools, with all the old team names going to Sentinel, and the new team names (Pages, Squires, and Knights) were created with all new traditions. Before Sentinel opened, Missoula County High School was the only public high school in Missoula, with Frenchtown High School the only other public high school in the County. Hellgate is named for Hellgate Canyon, a passage carved by the Clark Fork River through the mountains where Blackfeet warriors would lay in wait for the Salish.[citation needed] French trappers called the canyon Porte de l’Enfer, which means "gate of hell." Hell Gate Canyon remained a most dangerous site until 1855, when the Flatheads and Blackfeet signed a treaty. Missoula, incidentally derives its name from the Salish name for Hell Gate, the word having been simplified (corrupted) by Neo-Europeans to Missoula.[4]

Hellgate High School



In 2007, the Hellgate Academic WorldQuest team received first place in the State competition, and later advanced onto the national competition in Washington D.C.. The WorldQuest team was able to take second place in the nation. The team also went to nationals in Washington, D.C. in 2010 and 2014


Hellgate High Schools successful music programs send many band, orchestra, choir, and jazz students to the All-Northwest and All-State programs each year.


In 1997 the Choir Director received the Milken Family Foundation's National Educator Award.[5] In 2014 the Hellgate Choir was selected to sing in Carnegie Hall.

Missoula Youth Choir[edit]

Formed in 1987 by founders David Heidel and Dean Peterson, for the sole purpose of performing at the first International Choral Festival, the Missoula Youth Choir (MYC) has performed at every Festival since. MYC is composed of select high school students from Missoula's public high schools. MYC conductors are local Missoula high school directors who have collaborated on many school festival and concerts.[6]


2010 - John Combs, former band director at Hellgate High School, who now serves as the fine arts supervisor for Missoula County Public Schools, was recently named outstanding music educator in both Montana and the Rocky Mountain West.[7]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b SchoolDigger.com | Hellgate High School Summary
  2. ^ "Missoula County Public Schools". US News. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Mea Andrews. "Historians chronicle 60 years at Missoula County High School". The Missoulian. Retrieved October 5, 2007. 
  4. ^ Missoula in the Making: A brief history of the community.
  5. ^ "Milken Educator - Dean Peterson". Milken Family Foundation. Retrieved January 16, 2010. 
  6. ^ "2006 PARTICIPATING CHOIRS". The International Choral Festival. Retrieved January 16, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Former Hellgate High band director John Combs wins major teaching award. John Combs has been replaced as Hellgate High School Band director by Leon Slater.". Missoulaian.com. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 

External links[edit]