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District breaks ground on new fifth- and sixth-grade building

Byron Center — Come fall of 2023, about 700 fifth- and sixth graders will have a new Nickels Intermediate School building.

The district recently broke ground to begin construction on the two-story building, which will feature lots of open space, break-out rooms, a courtyard and other learning areas. It is on the same property as West Middle School, 8654 Homerich Ave. SW.

“We are a year into the design process, and we’ve involved all the stakeholders, (and) asked teachers and students for input. The product we came up with really represents what everyone was asking for,” said Nickels Intermediate Principal Tom Trout.

The new school building, a $25 million project to be funded by the $80 million bond proposal passed in May 2020, will replace the current Nickels Intermediate School, 8638 Byron Center Ave. SW, which will be renovated into a fourth district elementary school. The new building will keep the Nickels Intermediate School name.

Trout said construction will take two years, with fifth- and sixth-graders scheduled to move in come fall of 2023. The current intermediate school will remain vacant for one year while renovations take place there.The fourth elementary, to be named at a later date, is planned to open for the 2024-2025 school year.

The front of the building will feature vaulted ceilings. Rendering courtesy of TowerPinkster

Accommodating District Growth 

The building will increase capacity in the growing district, which has a current enrollment of about 4,300 students. (This school year, when all other districts experienced an enrollment drop or remained stable, Byron Center Public Schools increased by 54 students.) Trout said current fifth- and sixth-grade enrollment is 655 students, with 700 expected by the time the new school opens. The new building will have space for 850 students. 

Design elements include a one-story entrance with vaulted ceilings and space for STEM, art and physical education. The two-story south end of the building will allow for fifth- and sixth-graders’ classrooms on separate levels.

“The school is aesthetically beautiful, and it will be a wonderful place to learn,” Trout said, noting that the whimsically patterned color scheme will appeal to elementary-aged children.

Trout said locating fifth- and sixth-graders next to West Middle School will allow for shared athletic fields and spaces. It will also allow intermediate students who are working above grade level to easily attend middle school classes without the need for transportation.

A bird’s eye view of the school design shows the layout of the building including two classroom wings in the back. Rendering courtesy of TowerPinkster
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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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