GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Students at Grand Rapids Public Schools will soon have new choices to give them a head start on college and career paths under a plan expected to be approved by the school board next week.
The district will be offering two new academies, one for public safety careers and the other for media jobs. It’s expected to be in place for the next school year.
The new academies will be at Ottawa Hills High School, which is amid a $17 million renovation that will include facilities for these new academies.
“We want to really trick this out and make sure that the facility is there to support the teaching and learning around these different academies,” said GRPS Spokesperson John Helmholdt.
This has been underway since 2012 when the district implemented a plan to consolidate buildings and create a system of academies that provide training, college credit and employable skills for students.
The district already offers an array of special programming and career prep, including hospitality services, the Zoo School, the Blandford Academy, Centers for Innovation and the Montessori schools. All of those programs have waiting lists.
“We have the largest most comprehensive selection of school choices. We have neighborhood schools. We have theme schools. We have centers of innovation that include those college/career prep academies,” Helmholdt said.
The public safety academy will concentrate on police and fire safety jobs.
“The academy of media production, that’s graphic design, social media, video production, radio production,” he said.
The district looked at the most in-demand jobs when deciding between numerous possible options.
“More than 600 eighth-graders participated in a survey where they rated their level of interest — and so the academy of media production was actually number one,” Helmholdt said.
Public safety jobs are in demand not only from GRPD but from places with large private security needs like Spectrum Health.
“These are high demand jobs and they are looking to fill them, ideally with local talent,” he said.
During junior and senior years, the students are in dual enrollment with colleges.
There would also be internships and job shadowing opportunities that would help create pathways to employment.
“These are not just starting jobs. The goal is to create that pipeline to management, upper-management to helping to run local businesses that in these different areas,” Helmholdt said.
The Kent Intermediate School District does offer some similar programming, mostly at its campus on East Beltline.
KISD Spokesperson Ron Koehler said they welcome the Grand Rapids programs because they have a waiting list for many of these opportunities, so there is plenty of room for more.
For Grand Rapids, it is an issue of access, having the programs available in the city will make it much easier for students in the city.
Students and parents will be able to start early enrolling through the end of November that can be done online.