GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - When Grand Rapids Public Schools announced its plan to close 10 schools, the one that stood out the most for many people was Creston High School.
Closing Creston will save the district $1.7 million -- by far the most of any of the closures.
But people wondered why Creston was slated for closure rather than Ottawa Hills or Union high schools.
"As Superintendent Neal indicated, it was a hard pill for her to swallow, and it was the same for me," said bGRPS Board of Education president and Creston alum Senita Lenear. "My first reaction was, 'Why Creston?' And just try to get a better understanding."
In terms of capacity, Creston is in the middle of the three. It is 47% full, while Ottawa Hills is at 43% and Union at 64%.
"If you put all three [high schools] and line them up, you could really cut it any which way," said GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt. "If this community as a whole says, 'No, we want Creston,' our response is, 'We want to listen, but we have to get $5 million in savings.'"
Ottawa Hills is on a national list of the lowest 5% of schools, and Union High made that federal list, plus the state's own lowest 5% list. Creston is on neither of those lists.
"Union High certainly makes a lot of sense when you're looking at the fact that it's on the lowest 5%, but it's also packed full," Helmholdt said.
Also, nearly 80% of Union students and nearly 90% of Ottawa Hills students are from that neighborhood, said GRPS leaders. That is not something Creston can boast. About 200 students attend a special program, called GRAPCEP/Engineering & Biomedical School. It is one of GRPS' Centers of Innovation (COI), and if it goes into effect, the transition plan would move it, and all the other COIs, to Central High school next year.
But, Helmholdt admitted, some Creston students do come from other GRPS high school attendance areas and choose to go to Creston.
"That is a concern of mine," said Lenear. "If they're choosing a school and we are taking that choice from them, what will happen to those students?"
District leaders point out the plan is not finalized. Several public meetings leading up to the board's final decision in December are planned.
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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