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Community updates: Tuesday, Aug. 11

Grand Rapids Police Department releases draft strategic plan to improve policing; Grand Rapids Public Schools announces more details about its online-only learning plan for school's return; and alleyways in downtown Grand Rapids named, given street signage to honor local women leaders.
New alleyway signage for "Ethel B. Coe Way," honoring the Grand Rapids civil rights leader painted west of it.

New alleyway signage for "Ethel B. Coe Way," honoring the Grand Rapids civil rights leader painted west of it. /Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

Grand Rapids Police Department releases draft strategic plan to improve policing

Grand Rapids Police Department's (GRPD) Chief Eric Payne released a draft of the department's three-year strategic plan on Friday, which aims to improve police-community relations in the city.

The 2021-23 plan, available online, provides action steps with measurable outcomes using a neighborhood-based policing model. It also acknowledges people of color and low-income residents as being disproportionately impacted by policing practices and the criminal justice system, historically, and commits to eradicating this within Grand Rapids.

"This plan lays out a vision for reimagining policing in our community," said Payne. "Through compassion, empathy, and courage, we are driven to meet the public safety needs of our community."

"Our nation is undergoing a significant social awakening that demands both recognition and a commitment to change. This moment is the turning point for our department’s relationship with the community. Our strategies will help build a stronger bond and safer neighborhoods."

The GRPD's plan identifies three strategic priorities: safety, innovation, and engagement. Among planned actions within these priorities are transitioning to neighborhood-based policing that makes every patrol officer a community policing specialist, developing and piloting a mental and behavioral health team that can co-respond to calls for services related to mental health and non-violence substance use, and partnering closely with the city's Office of Oversight and Public Accountability and Office of Equity and Engagement.

Informing the plan were past community feedback, studies, and input from various external experts that have taken place over the past five years, a statement from Payne said. A finalized plan will be presented on September 29.

"As we transform our policing model, we will engage community members," Payne added. "We welcome feedback so we can adjust what we are doing to ensure we are connected to the community and policing the community the way it wants to be policed."

Payne will be be seeking community feedback on the GRPD's three-year strategic plan during a Digital Town Hall on August 17 from 6-7pm. The event will stream on the GRPD and City of Grand Rapids' Facebook pages, with Spanish interpretation provided. All feedback will be used to finalize the plan.


Grand Rapids Public Schools announces more details about its online-only learning plan for return to school

Grand Rapids Public Schools announced more details about its online-only learning plan on Tuesday, after the district's school board approved the plan the day before.

First introduced on July 27, GRPS' plan is to start the school year online-only for the first nine weeks amid continued COVID-19 concerns. The online format, also known as distance learning, will remain in place for the first marking period which goes until October 21.

To help prepare parents and guardians for the August 25 start of school, GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby shared added details about attendance, the loaning of one-to-one learning devices, meal sites, and more.

Attendance during the distance learning phase of the school year is mandatory and will be taken during "synchronous learning periods," just like traditional instruction. For the loaning of learning devices, GRPS will provide one-to-one devices for all enrolled students and providing internet access support based on need. For meal sites, all enrolled students will have the opportunity to receive a breakfast and lunch for each school day.

Starting August 24, Grab and Go Meal Sites will be every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12-1:30pm at the following 16 locations: Alger, Buchanan, Burton, Campus, César Chávez, City High, Dickinson, East Leonard, Gerald R. Ford, C.A. Frost, Harrison, Kent Hills, Ottawa Hills, Sherwood, Sibley, and Westwood.

"We will need each other to be supportive, flexible, understanding, and healthy to overcome the circumstances to give our students the best experience for their future," Roby said. "Please walk along with us to ensure a healthy, safe, and productive school year for our students."

More details about the GRPS return-to-school plans are available on its website. Further information will be provided to students, parents, and guardians by their respective schools' principals through "Welcome Back" videos on Thursday at 6pm.


Alleyways in downtown Grand Rapids named, given street street signage to honor local women leaders

Four formerly nameless alleyways in downtown Grand Rapids have been named and given commemorative street signage to honor local women leaders in Grand Rapids’ history.

Part of an outdoor public art project called "Women's Way," the alleyways now named after the women leaders have been slowly transforming into murals of the leaders, painted by local artists. It’s organized by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI), the City of Grand Rapids, the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council, and numerous area businesses.

The first four murals being painted in the project are of police officer Harriet Woods Hill, civil rights leader Ethel Coe, educator Angeline Kelsey "Naw Kay O Say" Yob, and the Grand Rapids Chicks' 1945 All-American Baseball Team.

Improvements of the alleyways down the road will include movable furniture for seating, planters, lighting, a biographical plaque about each woman, and periodic pop-up programming to further activate the spaces.

More details about the historic local women and the artists painting them are available on DGRI’s website.


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