HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Holland Public Schools are shrinking — that’s a fact
It’s been going on for decades. There are many reasons, including that the schools of choice option has drawn kids to surrounding districts or charter schools. The main cause is that there are simply fewer kids in Holland because the area birth rate has declined.
On Tuesday night at Holland East School, about 80 parents attended the second of four planned informational meetings about a proposed restructuring of the school district.
“In 2006-07, we had 468 kindergartners; today, 256,” Superintendent Brian Davis said during a 90-minute presentation during which he told parents about the long history of factors that brought the district to where it is now.
While the number of students is shrinking, costs have increased and funding based on student population has not kept up. That has left the district in a perpetual state of deficit spending.
Before the presentation, parents Mike and Annie Graves had their own ideas of what they would like to see for their kids, who will be in high school and elementary school next fall.
“When I went to Holland, they went through, K-five; six and seven in middle school. I’d like to see them change that back,” Mike Graves said.
In that area, the Graves are getting what they want.
The district currently has schools include kindergarten through seventh grade, with eighth through 12th grades in the high school. That setup, which has been in place for about eight years, was enacted to save money as the student population shrank.
Under the proposed changes, the schools would be restructured to serve kindergarten through fifth grades at Holland Heights, Holland Language Academy, Jefferson and West elementary schools; sixth through eighth grades in a middle school at East; and ninth through 12th grades at the high school.
“It’s actually restoring the school structure back to what it was before these changes were made,” the superintendent said.
>>Online: Restructuring proposal details
The Graves said they were also happy to see the district’s Early College program will be moving to the high school.
“Because of the lack of symphony and some of the other programs that the high school offered is one of the reasons we didn’t pursue (Early College),” Annie Graves said.
After the meeting, she and her husband said they think it’s unfortunate that East will become the only middle school because they live closer to West, but they said most of the plan sounded good and they support it overall.
They’re not the only ones. The district surveyed parents and found that they overwhelmingly supported reverting to a more traditional school setup like the one in the proposal.
That’s not to say there aren’t concerns. Tara Schafer, the parent of a pre-kindergarten and a special needs student hopes their needs are taken into account.
“I don’t have a problem with the overall school restructuring, but I do have a problem with the littler children that I maybe don’t want my 5-year-old in school with a fifth-grader,” Schafer said.
Superintendent Davis said he understands that change is difficult and that not everyone will be pleased with every aspect of the plan, whatever it turns out to be.
“The challenge for us moving forward is how does it impact each family and how do we walk with them together in a possible transition,” Davis said.
The plan will result in an undetermined number of teachers losing their jobs, which will be decided based on performance evaluations.
But even the proposed changes may not solve things forever. The factors that are forcing the changes are expected to continue.
“Until our costs for schools can align with the rate of increases we receive from the state, I’m not sure anyone can predict or project that this is going to be any different a few years from now,” Davis said.
On March 15, two meetings specifically for families of Holland Early College students will be held at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. at Holland Early College, 45 East 25th St.
The district’s Board of Education is reviewing the proposed changes and is set to vote March 19 on whether to enact them.
—24 Hour News 8’s Marvis Herring contributed to this report.