ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — If you haven’t been to Allendale recently, you may not recognize it.
The area is one of the fastest growing spots in the state, and Allendale Public Schools is meeting the growing demand.
Tuesday morning was a big day for 5-year-old Caedence.
“(I’m) shaking,” he said.
“It’s my oldest baby and he’s going off to school for the first time and it’s just a lot of emotions,” his mother Lexie Cook said.
Caedence’s bus took him to the brand new Allendale Early Childhood Center, where Principal Blake Smolen welcomed students with a high five, a handshake or a kind word on their very first first day of school.
“We’ve been looking forward to it all year,” Smolen said as the school bell began to ring. “I guess that’s our ‘welcome to school’ bell. It’s new to me, too,” he added with a laugh.
Caedence will be in good company. Inside the new ECC there are eight kindergarten classes, four Young Fives classes, four preschool classes and more.
Smolen is a new hire for a district expanding to keep up with the exploding Allendale community.
The local government is growing for the same reason.
“You’re sitting in the fastest growing community in the fastest growing county in the entire state of Michigan,” Allendale Township Supervisor Adam Elenbaas said.
Since 1980, the population has quadrupled from 6,000 to more than 23,000.
Elenbaas said the township has created some new positions to make sure things run as efficiently as possible.
“It’s a matter of making sure the infrastructure’s in place and that even more so we’re reaching out to those new individuals, new businesses that are coming into the community and helping them become part of who Allendale is and what we want to be able to offer to West Michigan,” Elenbaas said.
Allendale is a college town. One of the things Elenbaas has worked hard at is nurturing the relationship between the township and Grand Valley State University.
“I think the two cultures have finally started to embrace each other, where we’ve grown independently over several years and now we spend a lot more time in each other’s backyards,” Elenbaas said.
Meanwhile, back at the bus stop, Cook got some comforting words and a hug from a neighbor: “He’s going to be fine. He’s growing up. He’s going to be fine.”
Caedence is growing right along with Allendale.