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Grand Rapids Board of Education recommends closures, sets input sessions

The Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education recommended 10 schools to close and be repurposed, pending community input sessions.
The GRPS Board of Education announced its recommendations for 10 building closures over the next five years.

The GRPS Board of Education announced its recommendations for 10 building closures over the next five years. /School News Network

The district plans to hold three more community feedback sessions

● Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ottawa Hills High School Auditorium
● Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Burton Middle School Auditorium (Spanish
led meeting available)
● Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Union High School gym
Translators will be present at all events.
Grand Rapids — After two years of planning to restructure facilities, the Board of Education last month announced its recommendations for 10 building closures over the next five years.
The “Reimagine GRPS with Us!” Facilities Master Plan recommends closing and repurposing the following schools:
  • East Leonard Elementary and Stocking Elementary by 2024
  • Southeast Career Pathways (Jefferson) by 2025
  • Brookside Elementary, Grand Rapids Montessori Academy (Fountain), North Park ECC at Wellerwood and Sherwood Park Global Studies Academy by 2026
  • Aberdeen Academy and Palmer Elementary by 2027
  • Westwood Middle School by 2028
The recommendations follow last week’s approval of the district’s $305 million bond request to extend the district’s current 3.85-mill property tax rate for up to 26 years, to fund upgrades, new facilities, demolition of dated buildings and more.
About $29 million of the bond dollars will go toward consolidating underused facilities.
Superintendent Leadriane Roby said buildings on the list are only recommendations and a final decision will not be made until the end of the year.
In her presentation to the board, Roby said building closures will save the district $63 million in deferred maintenance costs and more than $2 million per year in routine maintenance costs.
Other key themes of the board’s recommendations included 100 percent district-wide air conditioning by 2029, no staff layoffs and transitioning students into new facilities that are in better condition than their previous schools.
Board treasurer Jen Schottke, who was acting as president, said the recommendations were an investment in the Grand Rapids children and staff who serve the district.
“We are ready to lean in with you and have, what we know are sometimes going to be challenging conversations but these conversations will help shape the future of this district and we’re ready,” Schottke said.
During public comment, Union High School teacher Jayne Neimann said she hopes the districts will invest in people, not just in structures.
“We are talking about spaces and buildings, but at the heart of all of this are people,” Neimann said. “If you don’t invest in those people, it doesn’t matter how modern and pretty your buildings are.”
The board will review feedback at the Dec. 11 work session and is expected to vote on the final plan at the Dec. 18 regular meeting.
Following closures, the district plans to gather community feedback on what will happen to the sites.
“As we move these recommendations forward, whatever ideas that are brought forward, we will bring them to those neighborhoods to say ‘here's what we're thinking about, what are your thoughts?’ and allow voice to happen,” Roby said.
Visit the GRPS website for the full recommendations timeline.
Article written by Alexis Stark, School News Network

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