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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — Grand Rapids Public Schools leaders have shared recommended changes to the Board of Education regarding the use of the school district’s buildings in the years to come and the use of the $305 million bond overwhelmingly passed by voters in the November election.
The proposal takes actionable steps to realign programs to better meet the needs of GRPS scholars. The foundation of the recommendations comes from intentional feedback collected from the community over the last two years illustrating what our scholars, their families, and staff want to see in their schools moving forward. Feedback from GRPS neighbors and supporters was also instrumental.
“In constructing this proposal, our mission served as our guiding light. This recommendation is a bold step toward realizing our vision of a world-class district. By consolidating schools, fostering equity, and strategically reorganizing our educational landscape, we are ensuring that every scholar’s academic, social, emotional, and physical needs are prioritized,” GRPS Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Roby said. “This transformative approach reflects our commitment to high achievement, and preparing our scholars for success.”
This ambitious proposal suggests structural changes that aim to better serve the needs of our scholars. Before delving into the details, it's important to note that these recommendations are currently at the proposal stage. Before this work is voted on by the Board of Education, there will be opportunities for the community to engage with the Board and district leadership and provide feedback on the proposal.
One of the key elements of this proposal is the consolidation of 10 schools over the next several years. This is projected to save the district a substantial $63 million in outstanding maintenance costs and repairs. It also means an annual savings of $2.3 million in routine maintenance. These savings will be redirected towards enhancing our learning spaces and programs for GRPS scholars.
Utilization and Comfort:
Currently, our buildings are only half full. These recommendations are designed to bring the utilization rate to an estimated 73% districtwide. Ensuring comfort for our scholars, plans include providing air conditioning in every academic building by 2029.
Equity and Scholar-Centric Approach:
At the core of these changes is the commitment to equity, ensuring that all scholars have access to the best education, regardless of their location within the city. This proposal suggests more mirroring of offerings available to scholars on the north side of town to those who live in southeast and southwest side neighborhoods. The needs of our scholars today and in the future are prioritized throughout the proposal.
The proposal outlines several strategic moves, such as the consolidation of middle-high campuses, and bringing together legacy learning institutions like Union, Ottawa Hills, and Innovation Central High Schools with supporting middle schools. This mirrors successful GRPS programs like City Middle High, CA Frost Environmental Academy, Southwest Middle High, and Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy which have proven effective in providing a holistic education.
Mirroring Theme Offerings:
In an effort to expand innovative programs, the proposal suggests increasing theme offerings on the Southeast Side. This includes recommendations for a new environmental science program at Ken-O-Sha that would join the International Baccalaureate Global Studies program currently housed at Sherwood at a newly renovated campus.
GRPS Montessori Programs:
Recognizing the success of the GRPS Montessori programs, the proposal aims to create a Pre-K through 12 experience by bringing together the Grand Rapids Montessori and North Park Montessori programs under one roof. Additionally, the Ridgemoor Montessori would expand on the South Side, offering closer-to-home opportunities for southeast and southwest neighborhoods.
The Grand Rapids Montessori program has utilized shared space for years and this program allows scholars to come together encouraging interaction across grade levels and a better implementation of the Montessori method.
Community Engagement and Future Developments:
GRPS is committed to engaging with the community throughout this process. As buildings come offline, discussions will be held with neighbors to determine future uses, including the possibility of affordable family housing, community centers, parkland or green space.
The proposal introduces the concept of "Innovation Hubs," envisioned as learning spaces with special themes for our children. These hubs could potentially be established through partnerships with local colleges, universities, or medical institutions, fostering unique learning experiences and enhancing community engagement with our schools.
This proposal is a result of extensive work and community feedback, but it is essential to emphasize that it is still a proposal. GRPS welcomes community input and encourages everyone to share their thoughts and concerns. Detailed information on how to get involved in this process is available on the GRPS website.
The implementation of these changes is proposed as a carefully planned process that will span several years. The team was intentional about prioritizing renovations that result in school closures and savings to the districts. Bond dollars are released in a series of three payments over the next several years, so projects are strategically timed to coordinate with the availability of funds. The timelines in this recommendation are estimates that would be refined once project bids are completed and work is scheduled.
- East Leonard Elementary and Stocking Elementary relocate.
- Stocking families transition to Sibley Elementary or Harrison Park Academy.
- East Leonard families move to Coit Creative Arts Academy or Kent Hills Elementary.
- Alger Middle School scholars move to Ottawa Campus.
- Alger Middle undergoes renovation for a new elementary school (soon to be new home to Brookside Elementary).
- Innovation Central introduces a new middle school program, accepting scholars from Riverside Middle.
- Ken-O-Sha scholars relocate to nearby Sherwood Park for one year, allowing for a complete renovation at Ken-O-Sha without impacting learning.
- Riverside undergoes addition and renovation for a new Montessori campus.
- Southeast Career Pathways program moves to renovated space at the former Sigsbee School site.
Renovated Ken-O-Sha campus opens with a new environmental science program and International Baccalaureate Global Studies program.
Alger Middle opens as a new elementary school and accepts scholars from Brookside Elementary.
All PK-12 Montessori programming on the north side consolidates at the renovated and expanded Riverside campus.
Extensive renovation begins at North Park Montessori, planning to reopen in 2027 as a new neighborhood elementary school.
PreK-5 scholars from Palmer and Aberdeen Elementary move to either newly renovated North Park Elementary or recently upgraded Kent Hills Elementary. Scholars in grades 6-8 will transition to a new middle school program on the Innovation Central campus.
Westwood scholars transition to a new middle school program on the Union campus.
Major renovations at Mulick Park Elementary, Campus Elementary
Major renovation at Southwest Elementary.
Ridgemoor Park to renovate and expand through eighth grade by 2031.
Enhancing Fine Arts and Athletics facilities:
The plan includes renovation work at all five of the GRPS Performing Arts Auditoriums, improvements at all three of the district’s pools, and major upgrades at athletic facilities including the beloved and historic Houseman Field.
Safety, Security, Playgrounds, and Technology:
There are funds set aside for upgrades throughout the district when it comes to safety and security — this includes the addition of secure entrances where needed and upgrades to safe-school technology. Playground upgrades and classroom technology enhancements are also slated as part of the work to be completed using bond funds.
As we embark on this journey to Reimagine GRPS, we express our gratitude to the community for their partnership and valuable input. Together, we can shape a brighter future for the Grand Rapids Public Schools, providing our children with the education they truly deserve.