GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - As a part of a major restructuring plan the Grand Rapids Public School district wants to close 10 schools and reorganize several others. According to GRPS officials, the main goal of the transformation is to strengthen and expand what's working within the district.
The proposed changes - described as version 1. 0 - will save the district an estimated $5 million annually, about half of which, 24 Hour News 8 was told, will be reinvested into the district.
"This is so we can free up resources to invest in the future – to build the future together," an introductory letter from Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal states.
The closure of Creston High School will save the district the single largest amount of money, an estimated $1.7 million.
Campau Park, Covell Elementary, Hillcrest, Ridgemoor CDC, Shawnee Park Math/Science/Tech, Straight, Wellerwood CDC, West Leonard CDC and KEC Mayfield would all close in the 2013-2014 school year.
Stocking Elementary, which closed in 2010, is planned to reopen in the 2014-2015 school year. GRPS officials estimate it will cost about $3 million to get the school back in working order.
"We have to do it right this time and do it now," Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal told 24 Hour News 8 during a Monday afternoon school board meeting to discuss the plan. "I get that this is really hard, but in order for us to move forward as a district, we have no other choice."
"This is about academic achievement," Neal added. "We need to compete. We believe in choice. We want to be the best in this area and we can't do that. With buildings that are sitting half empty, we just can't do that."
Perhaps most surprising, even to school board members, is that the superintendent is recommending shutting down her own alma mater, Creston High School.
"Actually of all the schools, that is probably the most painful," said Weatherall Neal. "I'm a polar bear at heart."
GRPS officials told 24 Hour News 8 they used a specific set of criteria to decide which schools would close and in which they would reinvest.
Those criteria included academic performance, maximizing quality and efficiency, enrollment/population trends, building capacity, infrastructure and neighborhood perspective.
For example, Creston High School has more than 600 students in the 2012-2013 school year, less than half its possible student capacity of 1,400. It is one of 17 schools that are below 60% capacity.
Creston was not the emptiest GRPS high school. Both Central and Ottawa Hills High Schools are less full in the 2012-2013 school year.
As a part of the plan, each of the district's theme schools would receive reinvestment dollars. 24 Hour News 8 was told each school would receive between $25,000 and $150,000 annually.
The district also plans to expand the number of K-8 and PK-8 schools and transition away from a comprehensive middle school model. A part of that plan would also then create special support for 9th grade transition.
Another key element in the plan is a phasing in of school uniforms across the district, and consolidating varsity athletics from three to two teams.
Several other schools will be repurposed:
- Dickinson Elementary and Gerald Ford Middle School will both close and reopen as Pre-kindergarten through 8th grade theme schools
- Ken-O-Sha Elementary close and merge with Sherwood Park PK-8 neighborhood school
- Ken-O-Sha building will reopen as a new preschool university
- North Park Elementary will close and merge with Aberdeen PK-8
- North Park Montessori will expand to PK-8
- Sherwood Park PK-8 theme school to close and will reopen as a neighborhood school with Ken-O-Sha Elementary attendance area
There will be several public meetings in the future to discuss this plan. The final Board of Education vote on the plan is December 17.
Public Meeting and Vote Schedule:
November 1 – Student, Parent Community Meeting 6-7:30 p.m. at Creston
November 8 - Student, Parent Community Meeting 6-7:30 p.m. at SWCC
November 10 - Student, Parent Community Meeting 9 -10:30 a.m. at Ottawa Hills
November 15 - Student, Parent Community Meeting 6-7:30 p.m. at Union
November 16 - Student, Parent Community Meeting 4-6 p.m. at Franklin Auditorium
November 19 – Presentation of Action Plan Version 2.0 to Grand Rapids Board of Education
December 3 – Public Hearing on Action Plan during Board of Ed Meeting – 6:30 p.m. at Franklin Auditorium
December 17 – Board of Education Final Vote 6:30 p.m. at Franklin Auditorium
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