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From meeting room to classroom

East Grand Rapids — The district’s Board of Education is on the move this year, now that its meeting room regularly draws a much younger audience.

After many years as the monthly — or more often — space where the superintendent and seven elected officials conduct serious school business, the room was transformed for the start of this year to accommodate serious and not-so-serious learning.

The new young 5s classroom serves as an expansion of the Woodcliff Early Childhood Center, on Hall Street inside the district’s administration building. The center is home to preschool child care and before- and after-school child care for EGRPS students in kindergarten through fifth grade. WECC also offers a summer child-care program.

Woodcliff Director Jackie Vanderploeg said modular units were considered for the young 5s, but suppliers prioritized them for medical and other uses when the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. earlier this year.

The boardroom was a logical and welcome contender for added space, she said.

Elijah Cramer draws a lollipop near a placard that harkens to his classroom’s previous use as a meeting room. It reads ‘Superintendent and Board of Education Ground Rules’

From Budget Reports to Nursery Rhymes

The wall of board-member portraits at the front of the room has been replaced with animal alphabet phonics posters. 

Instead of rows of chairs facing in one direction to better view a facilities report or advisory council update, low tables and chairs make for good learning in pairs, and a paper flip easel displays nursery rhymes.

The star vestige of the room’s previous incarnation is its state-of-the-art projection and sound system. Once used for detailing annual budget forecasts, the equipment now provides marvelous ocean sounds during rest time, Vanderploeg said.

Danielle Boston, hired this year to teach in the new classroom, has more plans to use the audio-visual system.

“I’m just starting to teach beginning coding skills, and I’m really excited to use this technology,” she said.

Net Gains

Vanderploeg said there’s been a growing need for child care at the center, which usually has a waiting list. 

It’s bittersweet that the added space comes at a time when pandemic restrictions call for smaller classroom sizes, she said, but once those are lifted the expansion means more children can attend.

Since the conversion of the meeting room, the Board of Education has relocated its meetings to the learning commons at the middle school.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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