GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 1,700 students decided to enroll in 20 different districts through Schools of Choice in Kent County.
It’s up to each school district to decide how many seats are available — or how many kids they can accommodate — in a given year. According to the Kent Intermediate School District, the number of open seats ranged from 1,000 at Grand Rapids Public Schools to only 16 at East Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Students who chose GRPS filled only 164 of the 1,000 open spots, according to KISD. Caledonia, East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills, Kenowa Hills and Kentwood each filled all of their open seats.
At Northview Public Schools, 214 of 220 open spots were filled. More than 220 students interested, but Superintendent Mike Paskiewicz said that certain grade levels filled up.
Of the 214 Schools of Choice students at Northview this school year, 154 live within GRPS district boundaries.
“We’re not trying to steal any students. We’re trying to build a strong educational program in all of Kent County,” said Paskiewicz.
He pointed out that about a fifth of the Northview students who live within GRPS boundaries never attended a GRPS school.
This year, 34 new students transferred from a GRPS school to Northview. Paskiewicz said that is fairly representative of the trend of students who come to his district from within GRPS boundaries.
Paskiewicz said that it’s not a competition between the districts for students. Other districts around the state have been known to advertise in an attempt to poach students from other districts because state funding follows students. Paskiewicz said in that Kent County, superintendents have specifically agreed not to advertise.
He said the goal is to focus on the kids, which is a sentiment GRPS echoed.
“[Our goal is to] offer a quality learning experience for every child starting with the kids in your boundaries, and then opening up seats that are available — not to build your budget, not to fill every available seat to over capacity, but to make sure there’s a balance,” said Paskiewicz.
GRPS spokesperson John Helmholdt also expressed disapproval of districts who attempt to bring in more students to balance a budget.
He said while West Michigan’s largest district is most concerned with doing what’s best for children, he did express a new attitude GRPS has about keeping students.
“This was the first school year in over a decade that we didn’t close a single school,” said Helmholdt. “That is why the transformation plan is going to work. And we would call on our friends in the neighboring districts allow us to get our feet again let us get our seas legs, let us stabilize, and from there the whole region benefits when you have a strong core.”