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Shelby County Schools to explore headquarters move to downtown Memphis

Administrative offices for Tennessee's largest school district
Administrative offices for Tennessee's largest school district
Daarel Burnette

The facilities committee of the Shelby County Board of Education has given the green light to explore a possible move of the district’s midtown headquarters to downtown Memphis.

Billy Orgel, a businessman and commercial developer who chairs the facilities panel, noted at Tuesday’s meeting that the layout of the 212,000-square-foot headquarters building is inefficient, making it difficult for employees to interact.

Meanwhile, other district offices are “spread out in a lot of different places,” he said. The district maintains a 156,000-square-foot office hub about 17 miles from its main building, while more space near Memphis International Airport houses special education offices.

Orgel said being located downtown, where both the county and city governments have their administrative buildings, could bring “synergies” to the district’s work.

“I think we need to consolidate, and government is downtown and what a great place if we were near government,” he told Chalkbeat on Wednesday. “I’d like to see what the rest of the board thinks about it.”

District administrators said they will research current lease agreements and identify potential downtown sites.

Orgel suggested that the district’s headquarters campus at 160 S. Hollywood St. might become part of the city’s nearby Mid-South Fairgrounds. City officials currently are debating the fairground’s future and whether to tear down the Mid-South Coliseum, a multi-purpose arena on the fairgrounds.

Built in the 1960s, the district’s headquarters building has housed school administrative offices for several decades. At one time, employees for the former Memphis City Schools worked on one side, while their counterparts with Legacy Shelby County Schools worked on the other. When the two districts merged in 2013, a door was unlocked and a wall torn down as a symbolic act of collaboration.

Shelby County Schools is the state’s largest public school district and one of the city’s largest employers.

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