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The Memphis-Shelby County Schools board voted Tuesday to approve a $5 million deal to buy 45 acres of land for the new high school in Cordova, after the district terminated an agreement to buy a smaller parcel nearby.
The site, at Raleigh Lagrange and Herbert roads near Shelby Farms, will replace the 36-acre parcel that the district agreed to buy in February for $3.5 million.
The earlier deal “was not necessarily what we needed in order to be able to get all of the scope” for the desired facilities and amenities, said Patrice Thomas, the district’s former chief of staff and a current adviser for strategic planning and operations.
The new purchase agreement gives the district right of first refusal for an additional 10 acres adjacent to the new plot.
The new school in Cordova will serve as a replacement for Germantown High School, which MSCS was forced to surrender under a new, controversial Tennessee law passed last year and an agreement with the Shelby County Commission and municipal leaders in Germantown.
Officials say the new school will head off crowding at Cordova High School, which is at capacity. The proposed new school is about 5 miles southwest of Cordova High School, and about 5 miles north of Germantown High School. It would open in the 2026-27 school year, with students shifting in together rather than in phases.
“We’re setting the bar much higher” for school facilities, said board member Mauricio Calvo, whose district includes the proposed new school.
With Tuesday’s vote, the school board has approved $108 million in expenses to fund the high school, which was projected to cost $110 million. The Shelby County Commission approved a tax increase in part to generate more funds for the school.
But the district has not secured all the funding it needs for the project. MSCS will receive $77.5 million from the county toward the new school, and expects to make up the difference by selling Germantown High School. So far, the district has not announced a sale.
The expenses voted on so far have not required immediate payments. The bulk of the $108 million approved so far is for a $95 million contract with Flintco LLC to help manage the project. Under the contract — which is subject to available funds from MSCS — the district will pay invoices as expenses occur, and Flintco is expected to keep the project on task and at budget.
At 45 acres, the new Cordova high school campus will be far larger than the Germantown High School campus, which sits on 22 acres. The Cordova High School campus is 55 acres.
Laura Testino covers Memphis-Shelby County Schools for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Reach Laura at LTestino@chalkbeat.org.