- Sponsorship -

A like-new school – and a cooler one – for Buchanan students and staff

GRPS cuts the ribbon on two renovated schools in one week

Ameriana Bieber stood in the entryway of her newly renovated school and thoughtfully described what she liked about it.

“I am so excited to be here,” said Ameriana, who’s entering fourth grade at Buchanan Elementary this fall. “This is my favorite school. I’ve been here since kindergarten.”

Besides a fondness for her teachers and reading, she loves the $13.8 million in improvements and additions to the old neighborhood school. So does her father, Francisco Ayala, a Parent Action Leader who came with Ameriana to a ribbon-cutting Aug. 16.

Kindergarten teacher Patricia Zellers, center, greeted fifth-grader Danny Perez and his mother, Floricelda

“The new building is wonderful,” Ameriana said. “And I really like the design.”

So did the more than 100 people who attended the ceremony, a day after another large gathering cut the ribbon on the new Public Museum High School. A blistering hot sun highlighted one of Buchanan’s key improvements: air conditioning. The AC got big applause when Principal Evelyn Ortiz mentioned it in her remarks.

“Without your support, this would have been only a dream,” Ortiz told the gathering of neighbors, community supporters, and school and city leaders. “This is your school, and we own it. We love it.”

Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal thanked the community for approving a $175 million bond issue in 2015, which mostly funded the improvements.

“We knew there was a huge need,” Neal said. “We knew the only way to take care of that was to renovate this building, so that it was like new for the children.”

The building sends a message that GRPS is “committed to this community,” which is largely Hispanic, and investing in its children, Neal said. “It says that we want you here and that we believe in you.”

Connecting Children to Nature

About one-quarter of the building is renovated remnants of the old structure and three-quarters is new construction, said Ken Klomparens, executive director of facilities and operations. It includes 16 new classrooms and seven refurbished ones; new gym, art and music rooms; a new kitchen/cafeteria; two computer labs; a media center and a secure front entry.

Now fronting the school are a spacious parking lot and playground, part of a green schoolyard initiative connecting children to nature at four school sites, said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss.

Fifth-grader Kevin Hernandez gave his remade school a thumbs up.

“I like the park. I like the gym,” Kevin said. As for the air conditioning, he said, “It feels fresh.”

Fourth-grader Ameriana Bieber, who attended the ribbon-cutting with her father, Francisco Ayala, said her renovated school is “wonderful”

His father, Roberto, gave high marks to the school where two of his other children also attend. The family lives close by and his kids play here, so he hoped the playground would be kept clean.

“It’s really beautiful,” Roberto Hernandez said through an interpreter. “It’s going to be a really big change from how it was before.”

Kindergarten teacher Patricia Zellers, a 12-year teacher at Buchanan, said it feels like a new school.

“It’s just amazing for the kids, and for us to have a brand-new facility that we can provide for the whole community,” Zellers said.  “Especially with the AC, the kids (will be) able to feel comfortable, therefore the learning is going to happen a lot quicker.

“I believe the way they’re going to feel about coming here every day is going to be 100 percent better than it was before.”


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

- Sponsorship -
Charles Honey
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, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.


The year of learning differently

SNN asked a sampling of students from across the county how it’s going for them so far in a school year of multiple instruction models...

‘I want it to look happy’

With help from generous donors, elementary teachers worked to make welcoming, kid-friendly space while following the rules of social distancing and sanitation...

New VP says ‘It feels like joining a family’

Aaron Romoslawski is the new vice principal of Sparta High School. He takes over for Stacey Rumsey, who was named Sparta High School principal last spring...

The changing of guard – as long-time educator and AD welcomes a new one

Godwin Heights Football Coach Brandon Kimble will take over as the district’s athletic director when Robert Hisey, dean of students and athletic director, officially retires Nov. 2...


    • Glad you like it, Ameriana! It was a pleasure to meet you and your father. Have a great year at your cool new school!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Two high schools, newly renovated, await return of students

Two major renovation projects at Ottawa Hills and Union high schools are part of a 30-year, $175 million school improvement bond approved November 2015 with the majority, $155 million, earmarked for construction...

City, schools come together to create green schoolyards for students

A new green schoolyard for Burton Elementary/Middle is one of four such projects the City and Grand Rapids Public Schools will complete in the next 12-18 months...

In class, online, both? Parents, students wrestle with choices

Students, parents, teachers and others share their feelings about the start of this school year...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU