GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids Public Schools hosted a carnival to celebrate this fall's reopening of Stocking Elementary School -- but enrollment at the school is still less than half capacity.
Enrollment at the school went from about 220 in June to about 270 in late July. That's less than half the building's capacity. The district said it plans for the school to be under capacity during the first year. The big question is whether more students will come in following years.
"It's a very small area in terms of size but it's very rich in children and families, so I think at this point we need to let families know we are reopening," Riermersma said.
The 90-year-old school closed in 2010 because it was too old and needed too much work, officials said at the time.
Now, a $2.3 million renovation to the building is scheduled to be finished Aug. 15. The district invested the money to encourage families to send their students to GRPS, as well as draw families back from other schools both inside and outside the district.
GRPS said the renovation to the 90-year-old Stocking is symbolic of how its transformation plan is making swift, drastic changes and then stabilizing.
"It makes sense to do this [renovation] and in hindsight it may not have made sense to close [Stocking]," GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said.
That's not only because the community at the time wanted to keep the doors open at the then popular and nearly full school, Helmholdt admitted, but also because it would have been less expensive to renovate the school before the closure. Without a closure the school would not have had to become ADA compliant – meaning no requirement to install things like an elevator or handicapped-accessible bathrooms.
"When you close a school and reopen it, you have to bring it up to code so there are some code compliance issues. But adding an elevator, making it more ADA-accessible, that's a smart investment. That's what we should be doing all the time," Helmholdt said. "So while there is some added costs, I think in the long run what you will see is it will pay dividends."
So why take the time and the money to invest in the school when the district is tightening its belt other places?
"It is a smart very strategic investment -- one that our superintendent didn't just look at the bottom line. She looked at the kids and the families and where they are," Helmholdt said.
Stocking will accept new students up until the first day of school. The district says it is committed to keeping the school open indefinitely.
The carnival was held Tuesday evening in the front yard of the school at 863 Seventh Street NW. The free, family-friendly event featured a dinner, bounce house, face painting, entertainment, giveaways, an opportunity to receive back-to-school information, and a meet-and-greet with new Stocking Principal Joann Riemersma.
Once reopened, the Challenge Scholar Feeder School will serve students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
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