New classrooms, upgraded facilities a ‘huge blessing’ at Buchanan School

Principal Evelyn Ortiz, left, talks to neighbor Christine Miller, right, whose 3-year-old son Brandon receives speech therapy at Buchanan School. Looking on are Bunny Swank, in hat, whose daughter went to Buchanan, and neighbor Toni Miller

When classes begin at Buchanan Elementary School this August, students and teachers will walk into 16 new classrooms, new art and music rooms and cafeteria, and a spacious new gym. The addition to the Southwest Side school is part of the $175 million bond approved by Grand Rapids voters in 2015.

Also in the works is renovation of seven classrooms, two computer labs and the media center, new playgrounds, and a new front office and secure school entry, all air-conditioned. The $13.8 million project dramatically upgrades the old neighborhood school, a cultural center that educated about 470 students this year and provides bilingual services to English-language learners.

Principal Evelyn Ortiz told visitors at an open house the improvements to Buchanan School are a “huge blessing”

At an open house celebrating the project’s first phase, Principal Evelyn Ortiz told a group of teachers, students and neighbors the improvements are “a huge blessing” for the school. The addition will increase capacity to about 550 students, allow for two full-day pre-kindergarten classrooms, and provide a safer environment for learning with state-of-the-art technology, Ortiz said.

“Our children, their heart is so full of excitement,” she said. “They’re right there and passionate about learning.” Her students come from different areas of a highly mobile community, she added, but “Once they are here, they don’t want to leave.”

Arla Riemersma, 66, who attended the school as a child, was impressed by the new building.

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “The neighborhood’s changed, and there’s a lot of kids in the neighborhood. They deserve a good school.”

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Buchanan Elementary School

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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