So Many Choices, and There’s Still Enough Time

Expo Features Theme Schools, Centers of Innovation

Orchestra teacher Patricia Wunder and one of her students, fourth-grader Aaron Gholston, entertain visitors to the expo at Gerald R. Ford Academic Center

The gym was filled with chatter and choices, as parents and students checked out possible schools to apply for in the 2017-18 school year.

The School Choice Expo and Winter Carnival, held at Gerald R. Ford Academic Center, showcased 17 theme schools and Centers of Innovation. They included longtime schools such as Blandford, City High, Middle and Grand Rapids Montessori, along with newer offerings such as the Museum School and the Ottawa Hills High School Early Middle College program.

Gerald R. Ford fourth-grader Pre-Sha Jones tries her hand at one of the many games set up for students at the expo

Theme schools provide a core curriculum through the lens of a particular area, such as environmental science, the arts or global studies. Centers of Innovation are public-private partnerships focused on career areas, and feature opportunities for job shadowing, internships and college or trade school credits.

Parents picked up applications for schools or did their homework to make future decisions. Terra Johnson was quite interested in Coit Creative Arts Academy for her first-grader, Janiya. “She’s very creative and I don’t want her to lose that,” Johnson said, adding she was happy Janiya could attend there without living in the neighborhood.

Julie Garel and her son Javon Tucker got a strong sales pitch from Bob Rizkalla, a teacher at Blandford School, who called it a “life-changing” program.

Pete Birchler and his son, Nick, sign in at the GRPS school choice expo, where they learned about a number of theme schools Nick might attend next fall

“We want to get information about each one of them so we make the right choice,” Garel said.

Applications are required to be considered for these schools, and the deadline is Jan. 31. Applications may be picked up at neighborhood schools, the GRPS Student Services Department at 1331 Franklin St. SE. The selection process is based on a lottery and space available, with priority given to GRPS district residents.

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Theme School and Centers of Innovation Applications

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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