Grand Rapids — A $290 million bond issue to reinvest in and revitalize district school buildings could be on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 7, capping off two years of assessing facility needs.
The Grand Rapids Public School Board of Education is tentatively moving forward with plans for the bond after an extensive strategic planning process plan and nearly a year spent cultivating a plan for its facilities to address capacity and cost issues and declining enrollment. Closing school buildings is recommended, but which ones will be shuttered has not been named.
The 20-year bond proposal would not increase the district’s current tax levy, but would extend the existing voter-approved tax rate of 3.85 mills, set from two different bond proposals approved in 2004 and 2015.
“This is a unique opportunity as we are talking about repurposing and reimagining our district and it’s also an opportunity to look at how we rebuild and update our buildings and programs from a facilities perspective,” said Superintendent Leadriane Roby.
If approved, the proposed bond would help carry out the work of “Reimagine GRPS with Us!,” the new name for the Facilities Master Plan, which identifies opportunities to upgrade, consolidate and repurpose buildings.
The Board will vote on the vision, framework and bond budget allocation for the Reimagine GRPS with Us! plan and the ballot language at its July 17 meeting.
Based on feedback from students, staff, administration and the community, the district also shifted the timeline for consolidating and repurposing buildings and programs to allow more time for the board to engage with stakeholders and develop the plan.
Roby said the bond proposal’s language will not name specific facilities or school buildings recommended for closure.
“As we are building out our full comprehensive plan, it’s important to make sure that the focus is not about closures,” Roby said. “People only hear ‘closures,’ but it is so much more layered than that. It’s about development, growth and reinvestment in current systems and opportunities to build equitable programming for our young people.”