The Nugget

Demolition Derby

Tearing Down Three of Helena's Historic Schools

OldCentral+School
OldCentral School

OldCentral School

OldCentral School

Selena Goddard, Head Writer

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After months of debate, on Feb. 27 the Helena City Commission voted and approved the acquisition of a demolition permit for Central School, Jim Darcy Elementary and Bryant Elementary. According to the Helena Independent Record, the Board of Trustees of the Helena School District hopes to rebuild “three new K-5 schools at the sites of Jim Darcy and Central school campuses and on or in the near vicinity of Bryant school.”

The cause of this destruction is due to the significant structural instability of the three schools. Of the three, Central has been shut down for many months. However, the decision to tear down Central School has been heavily debated among Helena citizens due to it’s historical significance to the town.

Tara Medina-Caplis, “a proud central alumni” and senior at HHS commented that her favorite thing about Central was the faculty because “they made it very home-like,” as well as the building itself. “It’s really pretty,” she commented, especially noting the large staircases which she is particularly fond of.

Regardless of the debate, the Helena IR reported that during a pre-bond meeting at the Helena Middle School, Superintendent Jack Copps stated, “From day one, safety was on our mind.” The safety of the students is primarily considered in this issue along with the need for sufficient elementary schools. One sophomore who went to Central, stated, “this is a very good thing for our school district, we need better schools.”

Essentially, if Central school is not safely reopened, many children of Helena will be out an elementary school. Helenaschoolbond.org comments that “5000 students would benefit from safety upgrades in each K-8 school in the district.” Another sophomore who attended Central school said “A usable place for students and teachers is essential.” Considering Central’s impending demolition, Medina-Caplis said, “I’m actually looking forward to it. Having it not being filled with people and children’s laughter, it’s so sad because it looks abandoned.”

However, the debate to destroy Central School was heightened, as reported by the Helena IR, due to a suit filed by Alan and Nancy Nicholson, “against the City of Helena and Helena Public School District No. 1. The Nicholsons have a long-standing interest in historic preservation.”

Copps commented on the suit saying, “It has no impact on this bond issue… As we move forward, new schools at Jim Darcy and Bryant will be built… Central may not be the first school built… we just have a delay at Central.” He also said the delay at Central will continue “until the injunction is lifted. If that does not happen, there’s a real possibility nothing will happen at the Central School site.”

Medina-Caplis thinks it is necessary to demolish and rebuild it even though “it won’t be the same.” She stated that “we can advocate for ourselves [during construction] to bring elements from the old Central back like the bell and the ‘Humpty-Dumpty wall.’” The wall was a treasured place where students could safely wait for the bus or their parents to pick them up after school.

In any case, the district will provide at least two newly remodeled elementary schools for the children of Helena. As for Central, it’s future is still very contingent on its strong historical connection to many people of the Helena area.

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