GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — The Grand Rapids Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to move forward with plans to Reimagine the layout of the Grand Rapids Public Schools and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the future for children in the district’s schools.
The vote at Monday evening’s regular Board meeting allows the district to begin plans to invest the $305 million in bond dollars approved by Grand Rapids voters in the November election. The plan put forth by the district charts an ambitious goal to streamline district resources toward scholar success and improve the depth and accessibility to high-quality educational programming for the Grand Rapids community.
“This vote means that our team can immediately get to work on improving the education of the scholars we serve today and for generations to come. Even before the end of this year, our team will begin paving the way for this work to begin immediately,” GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby said. “This will be a game changer for our full community and it will have a direct impact on the success of our children for generations to come. I’m excited to see the work begin and the improvement this brings for those we serve.”
The board approved the recommendations set forth by GRPS district leaders. The original plan was released on November 13 and followed up with an intense effort to gather community feedback. More than 2,000 community members participated in providing feedback and as a result the district modified its recommendation on December 13 — deciding to spend more time on planning a location for a new neighborhood elementary school site on the city’s northeast side. A recommendation on where the school will be located will be provided to the board by March 2024.
“The amount of work and intentionality behind these recommendations is evident and it is clear that scholar success and equity are at the center of each move and every investment,” Grand Rapids Board of Education President Kimberley Williams said. “While we recognize the effort behind the creation of a plan focused on the future, we know that changes within our community will happen. We are committed to reviewing the plans each year to ensure they remain in alignment with the best interest of our children.”
The approved recommendations call for renovations and improvements at many of the district's schools. Ten school buildings are slated to be repurposed by the end of this plan and programs within those buildings will be consolidated. All scholars moving to new school buildings as a result of this work will move to educational spaces in better condition.
No layoffs will occur as a result of the consolidation work.
“There is a place for everyone, under this plan,” Dr. Roby reiterated. “The work of reimagining our school district continues and we need all hands on deck. We have a tremendous team of some of the best educators anywhere and we’re excited to work hand-in-hand with them to set an even brighter course for the future of our schools.”
The current plan as approved is estimated to save the district more than $60 million in deferred maintenance costs (maintenance work that is needed now on GRPS facilities) and more than $2 million each year in the annual costs of routine maintenance on the buildings.
“These savings will improve the financial health of the district and allow us to invest the resources we have in ways that more directly improve GRPS for our scholars and staff including the competitiveness of wages we’re able to offer,” GRPS Chief Financial Officer Rhonda Kribs said. “The dollars provided to educate our children are limited and we owe it to our scholars to use them in ways that have the most significant and direct impact on their lives.”
The first phase of transition begins in the next school year when Stocking and East Leonard Elementary programs will transition to new homes. East Leonard scholars will relocate to Kent Hills Elementary or Coit Creative Arts Academy. Stocking Scholars will move to Sibley Elementary or Harrison Park Academy. District and school staff will work closely with families at these schools to ensure a smooth transition to the new school environment.
Details about the transition of special programming provided at Stocking and East Leonard are being evaluated and more information will be shared in the new year.