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GRPS board approves school closures

Facilities realignment plan to move forward starting in 2024

Leer en Español, traducido por El Vocero Hispano

Grand Rapids — A plan to close 10 Grand Rapids Public Schools buildings has been given the green light by the Board of Education. 

During its regular meeting on Monday, the board voted unanimously to move forward with its facilities realignment plan, which calls for the closure of the 10 schools between now and 2028. It’s part of a district-wide reconsolidation effort outlined in the “Reimagine GRPS With Us!” facilities master plan.

‘This vote means that our team can immediately get to work on improving the education of the scholars we serve today and for generations to come.’

— Superintendent Leadriane Roby 

The closures are expected to save the district more than $60 million in maintenance and repair costs for underutilized buildings, according to GRPS. Monday’s decision will also allow the district to apply funds from the $305 million bond to use in the reconsolidation effort. 

“These closures will help right-size our district,” said Luke Stier, Reimagine GRPS program manager.

Since first announcing the details of the restructuring plan, GRPS has sought feedback from the community, and the district did make a change as a result of that input. 

The original plan called for a newly renovated elementary school at the site of the current North Park Montessori School. The district stated in a Dec. 13 release that the community made it clear that wasn’t an optimal location. Instead, the district is now eyeing a “new or significantly renovated neighborhood elementary” on the northeast side. A recommendation for an exact location will come in early 2024, according to Stier.

The Board of Education approved a plan to close the following buildings over the next few years:
• 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

Parents Speak Up

Hannah Werth, parent of a Palmer Elementary student, addresses the Board of Education on Monday

Though grateful that the district tweaked the plan, some parents still expressed concerns.

During public comment, Hannah Werth, whose son attends Palmer Elementary, asked the board to remove either Palmer or Aberdeen from the closure list, touting the English learner program at Palmer. 

“This is the only program for elementary-aged children in the northeast quadrant. It needs to remain stable,” she said.

Kara Shouer spoke up to question the level of research that had gone into the potential impacts on students, parents and teachers, while Marta Johnson, a Grand Rapids Montessori parent, asked the board to push back the plan entirely.

“I think that a delay on the whole plan is a really reasonable choice,” Johnson said. “I think this deserves more time and consideration. … Families would really appreciate more time to engage.”

Trustee Sara Melton encouraged parents to visit the “Reimagine GRPS With Us!” website, stating that answers to some of their questions are available there.

Next Steps

Stier said the district will meet with families from the schools that are first up for closure, East Leonard and Stocking, in January and February. The district also intends, he said, to give displaced staff members from those schools first chance at openings in other locations.

Stier added that the district will assist staff members with moving expenses if needed.

Superintendent Leadriane Roby said she’s thrilled with the board’s decision and excited to move forward with the Reimagine plan.

“This vote means that our team can immediately get to work on improving the education of the scholars we serve today and for generations to come,” Roby said in a statement released during the meeting. “This is a game-changer for our full community, and it will have a direct impact on the success of our children for generations to come.

“I’m excited to see the work begin and the improvement this brings for those we serve.”

Additional information on how the closures will impact students can be found on the GRPS website.

Read more from Grand Rapids: 
Parents, educators weigh in on recommended GRPS building closures
‘The best feeling’: Student growth paramount for GRPS teacher

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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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