GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids Public Schools will be closing between eight and twelve schools by the end of next year. The move, 24 Hour News 8 was told, is to "prioritize classrooms over roofs and boilers."
The Grand Rapids Public School Board spent all day Friday talking about the future of the district and the changes they will have to make for it to survive and thrive.
GRPS officials told 24 Hour News 8 they do not want the same thing that happened to other districts, like Muskegon Heights, to happen at West Michigan's largest school district.
"I think if we continue down the paths that we are, it would not take long for us to be in the situation that other districts are in," said GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal. "I think that is why we have to be proactive, we have to do it quickly and we have to involve our stakeholders in making the decision."
Grand Rapids Public School officials said they know they've lost students in recent years and know they need to change how they do business.
Weatherall Neal said the goal is to create a new curriculum and new standards for each grade level. She said in Friday's meeting this issue is personal to her – she mentioned she's thinking about what kind of education and opportunities she would want her grandchildren to have.
She said the goal is to figure out what would be best for each grade level first, and to worry about funding later.
The goal is not only to try to attract back students who have left, but to offer a better education for all students who choose Grand Rapids Public Schools.
"A year out we are going to look very differently than we do today," said Weatherall Neal.
Weatherall Neal said the district is moving quickly for two big reasons. The first is that students are only in school for a set number of years, so changes that would improve their experience should be done quickly. The second is to proactively change things, with the goal of making the district a world class school system.
The schools that will be closed won't be decided on until spring, but before that happens the district wants input from the community about what they want to see happen. Weatherall Neal made it very clear that she wants input not just from GRPS parents, but from community members who have chosen other school districts for their children.
24 Hour News 8 was told the money used to keep schools with only a few hundred students open will now be put into improving the classrooms.
GRPS officials know the changes will be painful in the short term, but say they hope in the long term the district and the community will be better because of it.
"I think we have to equip people with knowledge and then hold true to what we say. I think it's as simple as that--just being truthful and what would you want for yours," said Weatherall Neal.
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