Central Elementary School

Central Elementary School was built in 1914, with an addition in 1921. Currently closed, it was named for its prominent central location downtown. 

Thom Bridge, thom.bridge@helenair.com

A Helena couple who filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed demolition of Central School has asked the court to prevent the city and school district from taking any action on a demolition permit while the case is pending.

Alan and Nancy Nicholson filed the lawsuit in Helena District Court in March, arguing that the city of Helena didn’t follow the Helena Historic Preservation Ordinance or its Growth Policy in issuing a demolition permit for the school.

On May 10, attorneys for the Nicholsons filed an application for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the city and Helena Public Schools. The request asks the court to halt the city from “granting, issuing or taking any other or further approval, permit or other action that allows the Helena Public School District No. 1 to demolish Central School until such time that a Show Cause Hearing can be set.”

The request asks for similar restrictions on the district, and asks that the district provide “normal and minimal maintenance” to the school and property until a hearing is set.

When reached Friday, Alan Nicholson called the latest court filling a “logical step to keep the city from issuing a permit,” as the court considers the merits of the lawsuit, and whether the city acted properly.

The Nicholsons, who have a long history of advocating for historic preservation in Helena, cite the historic value of Central School in opposing demolition. Built in 1914 and 1921 and designed by prominent regional architect George H. Carsley, Central School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The school has been vacant since March 2013 after the district shuttered it due to seismic safety concerns.

In the recent school elections, voters overwhelmingly approved a $63 million bond that includes funding for a new Central School.

The Helena City Commission approved the district’s application for a demolition permit ahead of the election with the commission’s process the subject of the litigation. The district has not picked up the permit.

Several parents in the Central School neighborhood have filed a motion last week asking a Helena judge to let the planed demolition of the building proceed.

School district Superintendent Jack Copps said Friday that the injunction request was “disturbing” in light of the election results.

“This action by Alan and Nancy Nicholson has the potential to delay the construction of a new Central School,” he said. “Equally and maybe even more important, it interferes with the mandate of 74 percent of voters who voted to build a new Central.”

City of Helena Attorney Thomas Jodoin was out of the office Friday.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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Natural Resources Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter / Assistant Editor for The Independent Record.

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