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Byron Center Considering Next Steps to Address Growth

As work crews finish the last projects funded through the $23 million bond issue approved by voters in 2011, administrators are already looking forward to future district needs.

Steady enrollment growth will lead to the need for even more space, said Superintendent Dan Takens. Byron Center High School and the district’s three elementary schools are expected to reach capacity in the next few years. A capacity study is planned.Brown teachers and students are embracing the ongoing construction as a learning experience

Enrollment is up 137 from last year to about 3,723 students districtwide. Despite a flattening of student numbers during the recession, the district has experienced continued growth over the past decade. “We are going to study that and determine how to move forward,” he said.

Takens plans to begin meeting with parent groups in the near future to discuss options including building a second high school or ninth-grade building or expanding the current high school. Adding a fourth elementary school is another possibility.

“We are good for the next four or five years, but if we move on it when we reach capacity we will we have the wheels in motion,” he said.

A Bigger Brown Elementary

A major part of the bond was the renovation and addition at Brown Elementary, the district’s oldest building at 50 years old. While much of the project is finished, construction of a new library and media center, cafeteria and offices are scheduled for completion in December.

Completed upgrades districtwide included security upgrades, technology upgrades, 10 new buses, and improve energy and air quality in buildings.

Also, the former Nickels Intermediate School, next to the district’s Administration Building, 8542 Byron Center Ave. SW, was renovated into the Byron Center Early Childhood Center, which houses preschool programs and several other early-childhood focused programs.

More Space, Natural LightSmall group rooms provide new space for quiet instruction

Principal Barb Johnson, students and teachers at Brown Elementary School, 8064 Byron Center Ave. SW, are enjoying eight new and eight renovated classrooms.

Many new windows for natural light, increased space, better air quality and small group rooms are highlights, Johnson said. The staff lunchroom has a wall of windows anda outside deck with a view of the woods. New classrooms look out into a courtyard area, and  a running track was added to the playground.

Johnson said it’s been fun for the community and students to witness the building’s transformation. “It’s transformed and updated, but the history is still there,” she said.

Brown Elementary School teachers enjoy lunch in their new loungeMaking it a Lesson

Johnson and her staff have made the ongoing construction this year a meaningful part of the learning environment. Construction Superintendent Ryan Hoeh, with Owen Ames Kimball architect firm, regularly sends news blurbs and facts about the project.

Students have also explored how construction workers use math and science, and top readers during March is Reading Month ate lunch with construction workers during March is Reading Month. “We can embrace it, not just wonder what they are doing,” she said.The remaining work on the Brown Elementary expansion and renovation are scheduled for completion in December

Students and teachers said they are loving their “new” school. “It’s a nice addition. We have higher ceilings. We have air conditioning for once, new carpet, walls,” said Sabrina Muthyala, a fourth grader.

Second grade teacher Leah Fisher said she is enjoying the bigger classrooms. “I keep thinking this is a brand new school,” she said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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