Grand Rapids Public Schools leaders are wrapping up the first round of public engagement as the district works to create its Facilities Master Plan.

GRPS is in the process of creating a Facilities Master Plan that will set a course for the district’s buildings and land moving forward. As the number of scholars enrolled has declined, so too has the need for educational space. 

Currently the district is utilizing just over half of the educational space available. The excess space costs the district upwards of $4 million a year to maintain. The district is considering its options for what to do with buildings no longer needed as school space.

On Wednesday, October 12, the district hosted the last of eleven town hall meetings — gatherings that brought in significant feedback for the initial round of engagement with the community.

Surveys for both the general public and GRPS scholars will continue at least through the end of the month. The district will also continue to collect feedback through the email address.

“We’ll look at all that data, plus the qualitative data that we’ve collected through conversations, Q & As, and such to compile the themes we’re seeing,” GRPS Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Roby said after Wednesday’s town hall. “I know that our board is very interested in what the community has said and that will drive how they make their decisions moving forward.”

Dr. Roby emphasized that this is just the beginning of public engagement on the critical work of creating the Facilities Master Plan. 

“We are far from done hearing from the community as we move through this important work. The Facilities Master Plan will impact GRPS for generations to come. We need our community’s engagement on such an important topic,” Dr. Roby said. "We have to get this right.”

The engagement process has made clear the concern from many in the public as to what is next and how the changes to some of the district’s buildings might impact specific neighborhoods.

“People want to know, ‘which schools’, ‘which programs’, and we don’t know that yet,“ Dr. Roby said. “I expected people to have lots of questions about how this is going to shape up.”

District leaders have made clear that the Facilities Master Plan will result in the closure of some school buildings, but programs offered by the district will stay intact. There is no plan to lay off any employees.

Changes will be communicated in a way that gives families plenty of lead time to make plans. No changes to open schools will take place prior to the 2024-25 school year.

The GRPS Board of Education is expected to vote on the initial phase of the Facilities Master Plan before the end of the calendar year though precisely which schools will be impacted by consolidations will not be announced until mid-2023.

Until then the district is asking the public to share input through the surveys so that the Board of Education and school leaders can make better informed decisions.

“If you don’t engage,” Dr. Roby said. “We don’t know what’s important to you.”