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Parents, educators weigh in on recommended GRPS building closures

More opportunities for feedback coming up

Grand Rapids — Some parents and educators are asking Grand Rapids Public Schools to pump the brakes on plans to shut down several buildings in an effort to consolidate following the approval of the district’s recent bond proposal.

After a decisive victory at the polls, the Board of Education unveiled a list of buildings recommended for closure last week as part of the “Reimagine GRPS With Us!” plan. The board is set to vote on the list on Dec. 18.

About two dozen people attended a public hearing on the matter on Monday, with several voicing concerns.

Mikaila Workman, a special education teacher at East Leonard Elementary, asked the board to reconsider voting on the closures, saying that the plan is incomplete.

Details Sought

East Leonard — one of the buildings recommended for closure, sometime in 2024 — offers a host of kindergarten- through third-grade special education services. Workman said the Reimagine plan lacks specifics regarding the relocation of those programs.

The plan we have shows us where students will move, but not how students and schools will be supported during these moves.’

— East Leonard social worker Sonja Ringlever

“As a teacher, I should not have been put in a position where I’ve had to tell families that I don’t know where your child is going next year, when gen-ed students know that they will either go to Coit or Kent Hills,” Workman said. 

She said it seemed to her that the district wasn’t considering all students when putting the plan together.

East Leonard social worker Sonja Ringlever also encouraged caution, and expressed concern about learning delays among students who have to change schools. 

“I worry that without a well-constructed plan that lays out explicitly what the district plans to do, our students and district will face tremendous consequences,” Ringlever said. “The plan we have shows us where students will move, but not how students and schools will be supported during these moves.”

She asked the board to postpone its vote until a more robust and detailed plan can be developed.

Anna Johnson, a parent of first- and third-graders at Brookside Elementary, also asked for more specifics. Brookside would also be closed under the Reimagine plan by 2026, with students relocating to the Alger Middle School site.

The “Reimagine GRPS with Us!” Facilities Master Plan recommends closing and repurposing the following schools:
• East Leonard Elementary and Stocking Elementary by 2024
• Southeast Career Pathways (Jefferson) by 2025
• Brookside Elementary, Grand Rapids Montessori Academy (Fountain), North Park ECC at Wellerwood and Sherwood Park Global Studies Academy by 2026
• Aberdeen Academy and Palmer Elementary by 2027
• Westwood Middle School by 2028

More opportunities to provide feedback:
• Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom
• Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at City High Middle School Auditorium
• Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Ottawa Hills High School Auditorium
• Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Burton Middle School Auditorium (Spanish-led meeting available)
• Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Union High School gym

More information on where students will go if the buildings close can be found on the GRPS website.

Johnson said she’d like to see a more detailed breakdown of the process.

“I’m really eager to see the ‘how’ of this plan,” Johnson said. “I think just moving … solves some problems, (but) not all the problems.”

Superintendent Leadriane Roby thanked the public for attending and for offering input.

“Thank you for your feedback to help make our recommendations even better,” Roby said.

Roby urged the public to take advantage of upcoming opportunities to provide input and feedback on the Reimagine plan.

Read more from Grand Rapids: 
Ombuds office to help GRPS students, families resolve issues
Schools see success in statewide push for phonics-based approach to reading

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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