HomeNewsPope School construction clears major hurdle with grant

Pope School construction clears major hurdle with grant

The Jackson-Madison County School System unexpectedly got over the biggest hurdle it had in the Pope School construction project on Tuesday, meaning the project should be able to avoid its first critical delay that could’ve delayed the school’s opening, planned for August of 2025.

The school system was approved for the grant funding it had applied for to help pay for the cost of the construction of the school that was needed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

“This is really big for the project, and we’re grateful it happened, especially today,” said JMCSS Deputy Superintendent Ricky Catlett.

JMCSS applied for the grant with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security because they plan to put a tornado safe room inside the building.

Because the grant is contingent on that safe room, those involved in the actual construction process from Henson Construction and its subcontractors weren’t allowed to disturb the area where the proposed safe room will go.

So for the past few months as Henson Construction has begun moving dirt on the site of the school on Ashport Road between Pleasant Plains Road and Old Humboldt Road, they’ve had to leave the tract of land where the safe room will be alone in the middle of this construction site until the grant was awarded.

In all, the grant is set to be a little more than $3.8 million, which is nearly 10 percent of the total cost of the project.

Cary Henson, owner of Henson Construction, had told the school board in multiple meetings since the summer that they would continue to do what they could without disturbing the area, which they have.

But during a capital meeting on Tuesday afternoon, he told that group that he’d set a deadline of Oct. 31 as a day to have the funding approved in which the school’s opening would be delayed.

“There’s nothing special about today other than a deadline needed to be set for both my and your purposes,” Henson said while speaking directly to Catlett during the meeting.

It was during that meeting that Catlett, other members of the JMCSS leadership team and both local mayors – Jackson’s Scott Conger and Madison County’s A.J. Massey – received an e-mail from Jeff Parrish, who is on the state staff of Senator Marsha Blackburn, notifying them the grant had officially been approved.

This is important logistically because about everything Henson Construction can do without disturbing the area has been done, and with winter approaching, doing what they can when they can in the next four months will be crucial in the timing of the project.

“We’re still on schedule to open the school when we’re set to in August of 2025, and that’s all we’re looking for at this point as a district,” Catlett said.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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