Upcoming school year marks end of era at PHSPublished 2:20pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
Since Pelham High School opened its doors to students in 1974, the school has never served just one city. But the next few years will bring an end to a tradition shared by Pelham and Helena students for decades.
When students return to Pelham High School on Aug. 19, it likely will mark the final PHS freshman class composed of students from both cities.
Helena High School is set to open at the beginning of the 2014 school year, giving Helena residents something many have been wanting for years.
“It will be exciting for Helena to have that missing piece of our community,” said Helena Mayor Mark Hall. “We are excited about having that (high school) here for our students.”
When constructed, PHS housed students from a large chunk of northern Shelby County, including areas now served by Oak Mountain High School and Chelsea High School.
Population growth led to a portion of the PHS enrollment being zoned to OMHS in the late 1990s, leaving only Pelham and Helena students attending PHS.
Over the past several years, progressively fewer Helena students have been traveling to Pelham to attend school.
For decades, Helena students attended Helena Elementary before going on to Riverchase Middle and Pelham High School. Over the past several years, Helena has added its own intermediate and middle school, leaving PHS as the only remaining school to serve both cities.
“I think this split (with Helena) will be tougher than the Oak Mountain split, just because our cities are on top of one another,” said Pelham City Council President and PHS alumni Rick Hayes. “Personally, it will be a weird feeling. Having grown up with it always being Helena and Pelham students, I can’t even think like that.”
Despite the pending separation, Helena and Pelham will still enjoy their longtime bond.
“We know we can always call on each other in times of need. That camaraderie and friendship will still be there,” Hall said.
“You’ve got to be happy for them to get a nice new school. I am excited for them for that opportunity,” Hayes said. “Helena and Pelham will always be part of the same community, regardless of what happens in the future.”