Community gathers to celebrate progress on MLK renovation

Students and the community gathered this week to sign a beam celebrating the progress on the ongoing construction project at Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School. The celebration took place in the frame of the new building. It began with a performance from MLK’s band and orchestra and a welcome from the school’s principal, Dr. Angela McShepard-Ray. Dr. Shawn Joseph, the Director of Metro Schools, Councilman Freddie O’Connell and Councilman Ed Kindall, who is a Pearl High School alumnus, also spoke.


Founded in 1986, MLK uses the same building that once housed the historic Pearl High School. As a historic building, and as it currently stands, the building doesn’t match the work happening inside. The school needs significant systems upgrades, more modern classrooms and just plain more space. While trying to preserve its historic character, our plans will make the school much more suitable for modern instruction.

Aiming for LEED Silver certification, the multi-phased renovation and expansion will give MLK students modern facilities that will take their education to the next level. The $6.9 million plan includes upgrades to the auditorium and science rooms, a new technology and music wing, a new cafeteria and a new three-story addition with 20 classrooms.

The new addition, already in progress, is located on the south side of the existing school at 18th Avenue and Jo Johnston. The building will add 23,742 square feet of space and will reduce overcrowding. The first floor will include new administrative offices and a new library, with the second and third floors housing new classrooms and support spaces. The building will also feature a student-designed mural honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 2014, MLK was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, an honor that was given to only 340 schools across the country. The school has a rich history, strong community spirit and a promising future. This project will provide students and staff with more opportunities for greatness.

Thanks to U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper; Board members Elissa Kim, Mary Pierce and Christiane Buggs; and Council members Freddie O'Connell, Erica Gilmore and Ed Kindall for attending. The Pearl High School Alumni Association was also at the celebration and continues to be a big supporter of the school.

Since 2013, the district has invested more than $160 million its high schools. Similar to MLK, Overton High School is also currently under construction for renovations and an addition. Hume-Fogg is undergoing a $15 million renovation, and Hillsboro has been approved for $40 million so far for a partial rebuild and complete renovation. Antioch High School is getting new classrooms, and Stratford’s total renovation opened last year.