How GRPS plans to use $175 million bond

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools on Monday outlined how it would spend the money from a $175 million bond proposal if voters approve it in November.

The outline calls for the construction of three new buildings: a new Buchanan Elementary, Zoo School and a new Southwest Community Campus High School. The money would also go toward millions in renovations for other district buildings.

The biggest ticket items are three of the district’s high schools: Union High School, Innovation Central High School and City High/Middle School. Renovations to those three alone, in this plan which district leaders are calling Version 1.0, would account for more than a third of the bond money.

(An estimate of how GRPS will spend the bond money.)
(An estimate of how GRPS will spend the bond money.)

But the plan’s not set in stone.

“We’re not going into this with any plan that’s officially cooked. We have our best thinking on paper starting with Version 1.0 and from that were going to listen to what our constituents have to say and we’ll come back with a final recommendation in June,” GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said.

Under the current plan, every school in the district would get some money for renovations, technology, security or all three.

District officials seem confident the bond — which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $8 more per month — will pass, even while acknowledging not everyone who lives within the city limits uses the school district.

“I think that your average resident and taxpayer sees the value in supporting our community’s children,” Helmholdt said.

He went on to say that the children who attend GRPS don’t just belong to the school district, they belong to the community and the region.

Helmholdt said that the bond money wouldn’t only help the bricks and mortar of the district. He said he thinks the improvements would lead to improvements in test scores and student counts.

“Having a 21st century learning environment that has the state of the art technology, that has the classroom design for 21st century teaching and learning, we know it will have a positive effect on the culture of the school. On the teaching and learning that’s occurring, and just create more pride in the school as well,” said Helmholdt.

But 24 Hour News 8 already looked into the figures and found after a $165 million passed in 2004, graduation rates stayed fairly constant at just below 50 percent and the number of students went down dramatically.

So what will be different this time?

“It’s tied to a Transformation Plan that’s focused on academics,” Helmholdt said. “It’s not just about building renovations or improvements. It’s part of a much larger plan.”

Helmholdt pointed out that GRPS had the best count day it has seen in the past 20 years, and that while graduation rates have stayed within the same range of below 50 percent, there have been increases each of the past three years.

There will be meetings for the public to weigh in on the plan.

GRPS community meetings (all of which are from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.):

  • Thursday, April 30 at Cesar Chavez Elementary Gymnasium
  • Tuesday, May 5 at City High/Middle Auditorium
  • Wednesday, May 6 at Gerald R Ford College Preparatory Academic Center Gymnasium
  • Tuesday, May 12 at Union High School Auditorium
  • Thursday, May 14 at Innovation Central Cafeteria

There are also several planned one-on-one or small group meetings with different groups.

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