In an abrupt change of position with the start of new school year now days away, teachers at Helena-West Helena Central High School were informed that they would not be moving into the new Central High School on August 12 as scheduled.
In an abrupt change of position with the start of new school year now days away, teachers at Helena-West Helena Central High School were informed via an unexpected mass email from CHS Principal Earnest Simpson, III that students and teachers would not be moving into the new Central High School on August 12 as scheduled, or as originally believed.
As recently as seven working days ago, when some members of the board, administration, and staff toured the new CHS building with construction officials, both parties at that time appeared to indicate that the classrooms and cafeteria would be ready and that school could begin in the building. Simpson, himself, was observed with some of his clerical support staff assigning staff members to rooms.
Simpson’s email to the staff said, “The construction of the new CHS campus is ongoing and will continue for the next few months. Therefore, the new campus will not open until after Thanksgiving break. The Miller campus will remain open until it is time to move to the new campus. The Miller campus will house 7th and 8th grades only. The Central campus will house grades 9-12. Several teachers will have to travel to both campuses. A copy of the master schedule will be emailed to you later this week once it has been completed. Thanks in advance for your understanding and cooperation.”
In learning of Simpson's staff email, a written inquiry from press representatives of the Helena World on the unexpected change in relocating students to the new CHS building was presented to Superintendent Linda English for a public statement.
The World's inquiry sought public statements from English as the top official in the district to the following questions:
• When was the decision made to not move into the facility and what was the reasoning?
• What changed between the time of the tour (July 22) when construction officials reaffirmed that classrooms and the cafeteria would be ready so the district could move in when students arrived on August 12?
• How does this decision impact the planned closure of the Miller Campus, including the area currently occupied by the WestSide Community Hub and the district’s continued subsidy of that organization through the payment of utilities, insurance on the facility, maintenance, etc.?
As the Friday, August 2 print edition of the Helena World was preparing for press production Thursday morning, no response from English had been received. Into Thursday evening, there remained no public statement from school district officials to the newspaper press.