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Gresham's online charter school buys an East Hill Church Family building for bigger space

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Metro East Web Academy will move to this former grocery store before school starts in the fall. The charter school purchased the building from the East Hill Church Family. Metro East Web Academy, a free online charter school, has purchased a building on the East Hill Church Family campus in downtown Gresham and plans to open it for students next fall.

"The East Hill Youth Center is a great acquisition for MEWA because of its excellent location to better serve the students and the community," Tonia Gebhart, chief operations officer of the Metro East Web Academy, said in an announcement.

Although Metro East's 575 students study primarily online, the school has some classes, tutoring and club meetings that gather in person. The new building is almost twice the size of the school's current location.

The new school "will have updated security, a large classroom space, six smaller classrooms roughly the size of our current classrooms and four additional smaller group rooms for small group settings for tutoring and instruction," Gebhart said in an email.

"We will have a designated elementary classroom as well as a science and art lab. We will have space for our family engagement, which also includes a pantry space for our students and families to access," she added.

The Web Academy, currently leasing space at 1394 N.W. Civic Dr., is chartered by the Gresham-Barlow School District.

"We're running out of classroom space and office space," Gebhart said.

"As MEWA continues to grow in enrollment, the board and administration team felt it was a perfect time to make this acquisition," the announcement said.

The East Hill Youth Center, a one story building with about 18,000 square feet, sits on a 1.6 acre lot at 50 N.W. Fifth St. in downtown Gresham. The structure was built in 1956 as a grocery store.

The school paid $3 million for the building and financed the purchase and remodeling with a limited offering bond.

"It will be a better use of public funds since we will own the property rather than leasing space," Gebhart said.

MEWA took possession of the property Monday, Jan. 6. Remodeling will likely begin this month and the building is expected to welcome students in the fall.

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