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New gymnasium highlights renovations

Principal Ross Willick touts ‘wow’ factor

Ross Willick most certainly got his wish regarding the new front entrance of Zinser Elementary.

“My No. 1 focus was wanting people to pull up to the corner of Kinney and Leonard and say, ‘Wow; I want my kids to go there,’” said Willick, entering his eighth year as principal.

Several days before the new year began on Aug. 27, Willick highlighted the new gymnasium and other unique renovations at his school, two years in the works.

These renovations at Zinser Elementary and throughout Kenowa Hills Public Schools were made possible by voters’ approval of a $55 million bond issue in 2016.

Willick said his students watched the new gymnasium addition being built last year, but would be very excited to see it finished.

The varsity basketball coach at Kenowa Hills, Willick noted the increased square footage, space and height of the gym, and “stunning” wooden floor.

“The big windows were a nice addition as well … beautiful,” Willick said. “And physical education has a nice, big storage room now.”

The renovated cafeteria, previously also used as a multi-purpose room, gym and stage, is now used primarily for meals. Willick said that helps streamline scheduling, “Plus we kept the stage for things like spelling bees and talent shows.”

Dedicated Rooms, Lockers and Space for Turtles

The renovation involved 20 classrooms in phases, including eight brand new ones, and a refurbished library and bathrooms, plus brand new cabinetry, storage space, projectors, furniture, carpeting and paint throughout.

Part of the new wing at Zinser houses a space for expanded/breakout learning that features comfortable, flexible furniture with natural light through large windows.

And instead of sharing, art, STEM, music and Spanish all have dedicated rooms.

“We were a two-section building for many years, and are moving into a three section building: three sections of kindergarten, first grade and second,” he explained.

Another bonus: where there previously were enough lockers for roughly half the school’s 390 students, “we now have a locker for every kid,” Willick said.

Superintendent Gerald Hopkins said he was excited to get the school year started, and thanked the community for their tremendous support in passing the bond request, and Willick thanked the Comstock Park Alpine Rotary Club members, who cleared out trees, weeds and a pond in the school’s courtyard, still in progress.

“My family has nine box turtles that we’re fostering, hoping to bring them back soon,” Willick said. “We’re hoping to have a plan soon for the courtyard, and want to bring it back to life a little.”

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SNN article: A new school world awaits students next year…

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Cris Greer
Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more.

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