GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Northpointe Christian Elementary School is one step closer to expanding.

On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved the private school’s plan to add six classrooms and reconfigure its parking lot. School leaders say the changes would improve student drop-off and pickup and add 10 spots to the current 54-space lot.

Rob Berends, who serves on the school board and works for the Nederveld development firm, said the additional rooms are needed to support Northpointe Christian Elementary’s STEAM programs. Right now, the school has no dedicated space for music or art, according to Berends.

The school at 540 Russwood St. NE was built in 1960. Northpointe Christian acquired the building in 1973 and moved in a year later. Since then, there’s only been one addition to the facility, back in 1985.

“The need is there for space,” Berends said.

He says the school launched a fundraising campaign for the expansion a few years ago, but it wasn’t doing well and came to a halt when the pandemic set in. Northpointe Christian eventually restarted the effort and surpassed its financial goal in the last couple months.

One neighbor stepped forward during Thursday’s meeting to air his concerns about people driving recklessly through the neighborhood on their way to and from the school. Another neighbor voiced support for the project, pointing out how the school allows the community to use its property for sledding, and the property would be a prime spot for redevelopment if the school wasn’t there.

School leaders planned to meet with the general contractor to discuss the project Friday. Berends says they hope to start work in April with the goal of wrapping up the expansion in mid-September.