Everyone at Helena High knows the familiar smell of Costco Pizza on a Friday afternoon and the familiar sight of the crowded hallways packed with kids waiting to get a slice. Well, almost everyone. Everyone except the class of 2024, who has no idea what their missing, because this year the beloved Catty Shack was unable to open its doors due to COVID-19.
Mr. Askin, a business teacher at Helena High, is the third teacher at Helena High to run the Catty Shack. The Catty Shack, a part of Mr. Askin’s Small Business Management class, focuses on showing kids the ins and outs of running a business. Mr. Askin calls the Catty Shack a “business laboratory” for his class. His goal is to have the students do as much of the work as possible so they can get the real experience of running a business.
During a normal school year, the small business class students not working the Catty Shack that day would participate in a “business innovator/entrepreneurship program,” but now instead of rotating students between the class and the Catty Shack, all students participate in the program every day. This program allows the students to gain three college credits from the class. Mr. Askin makes it a goal that none of the students will have to pay the fee for the college credits. The cost of credits is covered by the profits of the Catty Shack.
Although a lot of the profits from the Catty Shack go back into the business, money also gets donated to causes around the school, student scholarships, and to helping the community. The Catty Shack funds the David Strong scholarship, which is awarded to a senior who takes small business management. Since there are no profits coming from the Catty Shack this year, Mr. Askin said they are trying to continue the scholarship using reserves from last year’s profits, albeit the amount of the scholarship may be less than usual.
Mr. Askin and the students of Small Business Management this year, however, are still trying to keep the Catty Shack alive. In the business world, Mr. Askin says, this is called pivoting. Their goal this year is to try to have a Catty Shack delivery service, much like what the cafeteria is doing. Mr. Askin says the idea is that students will have an app they can make their orders on earlier in the day and the food will be delivered to their classrooms at lunch. (Mr. Askin did not have any details on the app or how it would be used yet). This delivery service would have different products than the usual, but Mr. Askin still wants to try to have food from restaurants.
Sadly, they have run into some complications. The class ran the idea past the school district earlier this year but have yet to hear back from them. With it being the end of the first quarter already, Mr. Askin says he’s not optimistic they will get approval, especially with increasing numbers of Covid cases.
If we ever get to Phase 2 and the Catty Shack reopens, Mr. Askin does have some new ideas for the store. He said his personal goal is to have healthier options available. “We’ve always tried to have what the students want,” Mr. Askin said, “but what the students want aren’t the healthiest choices, to be honest.” He wants the food to still be products students will want to eat, and if they ever get the delivery service off the ground, they want it to have some vegan options available.
With all the craziness this year, Mr. Askin said what he misses most about the Catty Shack is the buzz, the social interaction, and all the activity. And according to Mr. Askin, Mr. Schlepp said it best: “The Catty Shack is the heart of the school.” So hopefully, we’ll get this heart-pumping again before too long.