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VOL. 133 | NO. 154 | Monday, August 6, 2018

East High Sportsplex Has Broader Goal

By Bill Dries

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The first day of the school year usually finds those who run the seven public school districts within Shelby County thinking much further ahead. The start of the school year is something that may have consumed their thoughts about the time they were taking down the Christmas tree last December and preparing for the start of the calendar year.

So, as Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson tours a group of schools Monday, Aug. 6, on another opening day, he has already been talking about more changes at East High School.

With the new school year, East is in the second academic year of its four-year conversion to a T-STEM school – a science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum that has an emphasis on applications to all things transportation and logistics.

A group of college students studying architecture came up with some ideas for an East High sportsplex as part of a summer internship program at the LRK architecture firm. The ideas are still tentative but Shelby County Schools leaders are talking with potential donors about raising money for the new campus look. (Looney Ricks Kiss)

Hopson told SCS board members last week he is meeting with philanthropic foundations and possible private donors about a change to the look of the campus to possibly include a football stadium and using the parkland that surrounds the school for students as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This is not just about East High School,” Hopson said of the general idea of a “sportsplex.” “This is about painting a vision. … We should have equitable facilities. Because East was a canvas, I think this is where we can start this work.”

Tony Pellicciotti, a principal at Looney Ricks Kiss architecture and planning firm, calls East “probably the most highly visible high school in the district,” with Poplar Avenue on its south side and Walnut Grove on its north side.

Pellicciotti oversaw a group of summer intern college architecture students who came up with ideas and renderings for a sportsplex on the grounds. LRK’s summer internship program works with six to eight architectural students from across the country each year.

This summer’s program intersected with Hopson’s long-held desire to make East “one of the premier high schools in Memphis and Shelby County.”

The conversion of the entire high school to a T-STEM curriculum is a big part of that. Hopson has always wanted East High’s athletic tradition to remain along with the idea that the large parcel of land the school is on would continue to be used by the surrounding communities.

Those two elements are also a part of Hopson’s push for equity in school facilities and what those schools are able to offer students regardless of where they live.

“The reality is that we have some of our partners in this work … who are building a $90 million facility,” he said referring to the new Collierville High School that debuts with the new school year. “Thirty or 40 miles down the road we have kids in schools where the roof is falling in and the floors are caving in.”

The sportsplex as envisioned by the LRK interns would include a home field for East High adaptable for other sports in various possible locations on the field as well as a plaza and entrances either on Poplar Avenue or Walnut Grove to funnel pedestrians into the game area. It would also include new training and locker rooms along with baseball and softball fields up to competition standards.

A group of college students studying architecture came up with some ideas for an East High sportsplex as part of a summer internship program at the LRK architecture firm. The ideas are still tentative but Shelby County Schools leaders are talking with potential donors about raising money for the new campus look. (Looney Ricks Kiss)

The renderings shown by the students feature prominently the historic post World War II school building in the view.

East opened for classes 70 years ago this summer – built to hold 2,000 students on land that had been used as an archery range, golf driving range and a riding stable, according to a history of the school on the East High Alumni page.

Lischa Brooks, the executive principal of East and a 1991 graduate of the high school, said the ideas and plans by the interns could make East “an exemplar for all of the schools in our city – a catalyst for all schools.”

Pellicciotti said the undertaking could be akin to the effect the Crosstown Concourse project – the redevelopment of a 1.5 million square foot Sear distribution facility – has had in being a catalyst for other large undertakings.

“It’s like Crosstown Concourse changed the city’s way of thinking about things that are impossible,” he said. “The way you change more people’s impression of Shelby County Schools is when they drive by that site every day and they say, ‘Something great is happening here,’ as opposed to ‘All of those fields and there’s a lot of people there but it’s kind of tired and worn out.’”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 110 19,224
MORTGAGES 0 125 22,175
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 7 58 2,894
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BANKRUPTCIES 36 98 12,346
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 21 6,287
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 41 41 7,313
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