Helena High School offers state-of-the-art facilities

A science laboratory in the new Helena High School building, equipped with freestanding lab tables, will be used by any student taking a lab sciene course. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

A science laboratory in the new Helena High School building, equipped with freestanding lab tables, will be used by any student taking a lab sciene course. (Reporter Photo / Jon Goering)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

HELENA—Some students get new pencils and notebooks for the start of school, but this year, students of Helena High School will get a brand new school. On Aug. 7, the new school and building will open its doors to students for the first time.

Helena High School Principal Jay Peoples estimates between 1,000 and 1050 students are enrolled for the 2014-2015 academic year. Helena High School students previously attended Pelham High School.

The new building sits on Hillsboro Parkway overlooking Helena. The about 220,000 square-foot structure houses between 55 to 60 “typical classrooms” in addition to many other state-of-the art features, Jay Peoples said.

Peoples highlighted the school’s media center as a key feature of the building. The hybrid library and technology center occupies a spacious room. Walls lined with bookshelves surround a study space complete with tables and desks topped with new computers. The center also has a separate multi-purpose computer lab.

“The media center is awfully nice,” Peoples said of the high-tech space.

The school building also offers top-of-the-line science facilities, including laboratory classrooms for all students taking a lab science, and a health sciences suite designed specifically for the school’s newest sports medicine and health sciences foundations courses.

Through a partnership with Alabaster-based practice Lemak Sports Medicine and Orthopedic, Helena High School will offer a new health sciences program for students interested in nursing and “therapeutic services,” Peoples explained, adding students have demonstrated “great interest already.”

“We believe the facility and the partnership with Dr. Lemak, and hopefully others, makes this fairly unique,” Peoples said of Helena High School’s “feature career tech program.”

While the new Helena High School offers the latest in learning facilities, it was also built with an eye toward safety. Two tornado shelters are located on either side of the school’s auditorium. Combined, the shelters can hold 1,778 people and withstand winds of 250 miles per hour.

“Essentially, it’s a concrete cube,” Peoples said of the two shelters, which appear as unassuming hallways, only identifiable by signs denoting their locations.

Although the building offers many state-of-the-art features, Peoples appreciates some of the more subtle details of the new Helena High School, including the “super wide” hallways, the spacious courtyard and the “neutral color palate.”

“Now (we have to) try to be good stewards and keep it nice,” Peoples said.