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Community updates: Friday, March 26

Grand Rapids Police Department now assigning officers to specific neighborhoods; Grand Rapids Public Schools expanding in-person learning days for K-8 students; Spread the Music virtual festival continues this weekend to support Michigan musicians impacted by pandemic; and more.
Political Lizard performing at Listening Room on Wednesday as part of Spread the Music Festival 2021.

Political Lizard performing at Listening Room on Wednesday as part of Spread the Music Festival 2021. /GRTV

Grand Rapids Police Department now assigning officers to specific neighborhoods

The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRDP) now assigns officers to specific neighborhoods across the city, effective March 21.

Adoption of the new policing model comes as part of the GRPD’s efforts to improve police-community relations, according to the department. It also increases patrol staffing by redeploying officers previously assigned as community policing specialists.

During the city’s Tuesday Public Safety Committee meeting, Police Chief Eric Payne said the focus on a specific neighborhood for each officer enables them to build relationships and problem-solve with neighborhood stakeholders on many issues, including non-criminal ones and those related to quality of life.

The officer will become part of the neighborhood and be vested in its success, as well as be a resource for the residents and businesses,” said Payne. “Officers will be able to work directly with those in the neighborhood, find solutions to significant issues, and be a helpful advocate.”

Shifting to the neighborhood focus for officers follows public listening sessions hosted by the GRPD throughout 2020, which the department said heard many residents express a desire to see their officers engaged in more positive non-enforcement interactions in their community.

Responding to the GRPD’s adoption of the new model, however, local group Defund the GRPD said “neighborhood policing is not a solution.”

Police reforms are a rebranding of policing, not actual structural change in how we keep our communities safe,” the group said in a Wednesday statement. “With this new model, money and resources will remain in control of people who continually oppress our community.

“The Defund the GRPD coalition recommends that the city of Grand Rapids reallocate money and resources from useless police reforms to existing groups and organizations doing the work of community safety,” it continued.

So far, according to the GRPD, the department has succeeded in providing 124 officers of the 132 required to each neighborhood in the city, 24 hours-a-day and 365 days-a-year. As of March 21, officers are covering 92 percent of all city neighborhoods.

More details about the GRPD’s plans to improve police-community relations are available in its new three-year strategic plan available on its website. A redline copy is also available, which details where revisions were made following community feedback throughout the plan’s development.


Grand Rapids Public Schools expanding in-person learning days for K-8 students

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is expanding hybrid in-person learning for students in grades K-8, from two days in-person per week to four, beginning April 12.

All K-8th grade students will attend in-person on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday, and Fridays, according to GRPS, with Wednesdays still being 100 percent virtual for all students. The district previously split the week with half of its students only in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other on Thursdays and Fridays.

GRPS based its decision “on the latest guidance from federal, state, and county health officials, and the academic, social, and emotional needs of [its] students,” it said in a Thursday statement.

In light of staffing and logistical issues, GRPS is not able to maintain the two-day hybrid in-person learning option for K-8 families who want to remain in that configuration. Parents who don’t want their students participating in the four-day in-person expansion will have to notify their students’ schools, for their students to be placed in the 100 percent virtual option.

Virtual students will remain virtual; however, exceptions may be made for extenuating circumstances only, GRPS also noted.

The district is looking to expand this larger amount of in-person school days to other students in the future, such as those in preschool, Early Childhood Special Education, and grades 9-12.

We are seeking additional guidance from the Kent County Health Department for the potential of high school expansion and will be bringing any recommendation to the [GRPS] board as early as April 12,” GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby said in a Wednesday video update. “My goal is to expand for grades 9 through 12 when we receive guidance from the health department to proceed.”

Updates on further expansion of in-personal learning days for GRPS students will be available on the district’s website.


City of Grand Rapids adopts new parks naming policy, allowing names of donors

Grand Rapids city commissioners approved a new naming policy for parks and recreational facilities on Tuesday, as part of a series of adopted resolutions relating to the city’s sponsorship and advertising policies.

The new naming policy allows city parks and recreational facilities to be named after donors who may wish to financially support improvements within the city’s system of 75 parks and open spaces. It aims to help the city with gaining financial and in-kind support that is becoming more critical to sustain and expand parks, facilities, and recreational opportunities, according to the City of Grand Rapids.

The policy also allows for city parks and recreational facilities to be named after people in other categories, with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department supporting consideration of naming requests for the following:

  • Historic events, places, and persons
  • Exceptional individuals
  • Major gifts

The names of parks, buildings, and major features tell the important stories of Grand Rapids history,” Parks and Recreation Director David Marquardt said, noting that the renaming of public spaces in the city is a complex issue.

According to the City of Grand Rapids, the policy reserves the naming or renaming of parks and recreational facilities for circumstances where tradition and practice have shown to best serve the interests of the city, and assure worthy and enduring legacy for its parks and recreation system.

Naming request approvals involve the Parks and Recreation Department, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and, ultimately, the city manager and City Commission.

Details about other sponsorship and advertising policies approved by the city on Tuesday are available in a City Commission presentation available on the city’s website.


Spread the Music virtual festival continues this weekend to support Michigan musicians impacted by pandemic

In support of Michigan musicians continuing to be impacted by the pandemic, the nonprofit Michigan Music Alliance is once again hosting a virtual Spread the Music fundraiser festival featuring Michigan-based livestream performances – happening through Sunday.

The five-day festival, which kicked off Wednesday, broadcasts live from its Facebook page and features over 200 music artists from Michigan, many Grand Rapids-based. Performing artists include Brian Vander Ark from The Verve Pipe, The Accidentals, and Jackson Smith.

It’s the second time the Michigan Music Alliance has organized and hosted the festival, after what the organization saw as the success of its first festival in March 2020. It raised nearly $40,000 last year to financially support Michigan musicians experiencing a loss of income due to pandemic-related shutdowns of live shows. This year, it hopes to raise $50,000.

We had such an overwhelming amount of support last year and we are so thankful to be hosting the second year of the festival,” the organization said in an email to supporters. “None of this could have been possible without your support and commitment to the Michigan music scene.”

With the help of partnering organizations, the Michigan Music Alliance has been able to host some of the performing artists at performance venues around the state, live-streamed to viewers. Among participating venues is Grand Rapids’ Listening Room, which on Wednesday hosted performances by Political Lizard, Chain of Lakes, and others, video-produced by GRTV.

The full lineup and schedule for Spread the Music Festival 2021 is available on its website.


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