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Gem Prep Pocatello school plans to move into former Sears store

The former Sears building at the Pine Ridge Mall in Chubbuck could be getting a new occupant soon. But it’s not another store – it’s a school.

Gem Prep Charter School in Pocatello is looking to move into the building for the the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

Gem Prep said there are three motivating factors behind moving to a new building: space, location and cost.

The school said it has a growth plan and it just doesn’t have enough space to accommodate more students.

Right now, Gem Prep has 147 students that are spread though two classrooms inside the main building and in four modular units outside. But the school plans to have more than 500 students over the next few years as it expands.

Next year, for the 2018-2019 academic year, the school will expand to include 6th grade students, instead of K-5 like it is now.

Then, the next year, once in its new location, it would add 7th and 8th grade. The year after that, 9th and 10th would be added, and then 11th and 12th grades the following year, eventually making Gem Prep a K-12 campus.

So Gerald Love, Gem Prep’s principal, said the Sears location could accommodate that nicely.

“Number one we’ll have bigger classrooms, we’ll have a gymnasium, we’ll have be under one roof so to speak and we’ll have a cafeteria,” Love said.

The former Sears building is 78,000 sq. ft plus 3.2 acres of parking lot area that Gem Prep would make a green space and playground area.

Love said in total, the new location would add about 66,000 more square feet than what they have now, and it would bring all the students under the same building.

“We worked with the owners of the mall and they saw a fit,” Love said. “They saw a need where right now, retail is kind of fluctuating up and down and so having the school there really can solidify and help not just the mall itself, but the surrounding areas as well.”

Love said another reason for moving is location. Right now, Gem Prep is kind of hidden and Love said many aren’t familiar with the school or where they are. It’s on Jessie Clark Lane tucked behind a suburb.

By moving to the mall, it’s a more centralized location and easily accessed, Love added.

Love said the third reason is cost. The school is leasing its current space and that lease is up the end of this next coming school year. Love said the school plans to buy the Sears location and make it their own to help with cost down the road.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to grow, to expand,” Love said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to have one space to call our own – a permanent location.”

There will be a public hearing about the school getting a conditional use permit to move to the old Sears building. That will be held during Chubbuck city council meeting on June 12 at 7 p.m. at Chubbuck City Hall.

Sears closed in 2014, which is the same year Gem Prep opened its doors.

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