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    Charter school uses FEMA grant for expansion

    By Michael Sheffield- Memphis Business Journal -

    Power Center Academy is preparing to launch construction of a new high school and middle school on Winchester Road this fall, with plans for the schools to be open by fall 2013.

    The charter school, which opened in 2008, acquired 24 acres of the former Marina Cove Apartments in Hickory Hill as part of a donation from the city of Memphis and bought an additional 18 undeveloped acres adjacent to it for $182,000 in 2010. The city demolished the apartments that same year, and Power Center Community Development Corp. began plans for the schools, as well as a mixed-use development. A2H and Fleming/Associates/Architects PC is designing the project, budgeted at around $50 million.

    Curt Pierce, project architect for Fleming Associates, says the school is designed to accommodate Power Center’s business-related curriculum, including breakout rooms that give students an opportunity to study outside of the traditional classroom setting.

    The budget for the first phase is still being finalized, but Power Center has received a $3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a 900-seat performing arts center and gymnasium. That building will double as a storm shelter. A tornado seriously damaged Hickory Hill in 2008.

    Soulsville Charter School received a similar grant from FEMA to build a storm shelter. Mark Wender, chief operating officer of the Soulsville Foundation, says the grant will give that school momentum to raise the funds needed for its own expansion, which he hopes will launch within the next year.

    Derwin Sisnett, executive director of Power Center Development Corp., says the schools will total about 80,000 square feet and will eventually house more than 900 students. Power Center currently has 600 students in grades six through 10. The school will add the 11th and 12th grades over the next two years.