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Grand Rapids Public Schools

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For one elementary school teacher, it feels like “the wheels are coming off the bus.” 

It was around the third week of school when her coworker, a fellow teacher at Dieck Elementary in the Flint suburb of Swartz Creek, tested positive for COVID-19.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
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Grand Rapids Public Schools says it plans to have online-only instruction for the first nine weeks of the school year.

Superintendent Leadrianne Roby says the district will follow the state’s guidance and decide whether to return to in-person teaching in October.

Volunteers boxing up food
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

K-12 schools all over Michigan are closed due to COVID-19. But what about students who rely on school breakfast and lunch for their daily meals?

Well different school districts have different solutions.

New Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in southeast Grand Rapids, for example, is one of eight locations around the city handing out meals to Grand Rapids Public Schools’ families while schools are closed.

School bus
Bill McChesney / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Grand Rapids Public Schools has chosen its new superintendent.

The school board voted Monday night to select Leadriane Roby, who is currently the Assistant Superintendent in Richfield, Minnesota.  

The board says it chose Roby because it liked her experience as a teacher, and because she says she will do whatever she can to keep any financial strains on the district from affecting teachers and students in the classroom.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
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Teachers from across the state weighed in on how to stop Michigan’s teacher shortage. Finding ways to reduce the financial burden on educators is their top recommendation. That’s according to a new report from Public Policy Associates, Inc.  

The report gathered input from teachers across the state. It found low starting wages are a big part of the problem.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
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Grand Rapids Public Schools board of education is narrowing the search for its next superintendent.

The board voted Monday evening to interview five superintendent candidates.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss at a podium
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Students who live and go to school in the city of Grand Rapids could soon be eligible to get tuition covered at Grand Rapids Community College.

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority is working with all 22 high schools in the city, including public, public-charter and private schools.

view from the backseat of a person driving a car
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Today on Stateside, what is Michigan doing to compensate the thousands of residents wrongly accused of making fraudulent unemployment insurance claims? Plus, we look into efforts at Grand Rapids Public Schools to improve opportunities for students of color, and talk to a desegregation expert about why urban districts often struggle to do so. 

Marijuana plant
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Legalizing marijuana could have unintended consequences for public schools in Michigan.

Earlier this month, Michigan residents voted to pass a ballot proposal to legalize marijuana for people 21 and older.

classroom
Flickr user Ben W

Grand Rapids wants to get more young people of color to consider working in the hospitality and tourism industry. So the city’s public school system is opening an academy that focuses on this field.

The Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, which will be housed at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, will be open to students starting next fall.

Kent Hills Elementary in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is investigating a teacher who allegedly assaulted an eight-year-old student.

This is the second time Robert Spaeth has been accused of physically hurting a student.

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Teresa Weatherall Neal announced Monday that she’s retiring as Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Weatherall Neal says she came to the decision after her sister suddenly passed way in July.

Empty classroom
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The Kent Intermediate School District wants input from parents and staff as it prepares to absorb special education and early childhood programs from Grand Rapids Public Schools.

GRPS decided to transfer these programs to the Kent ISD last month.

Panel and audience
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Michigan's criminal justice system feeds on the poor – that’s what a state lawmaker in Grand Rapids says.

State Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, talked to community members about criminal justice reform at a town hall meeting tonight. He and his fellow panelists described different facets of the system that need changing.

LaGrand says nearly half of Michigan’s jail population is people who can’t afford to pay a modest bail..

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools will not remove its head of special education, despite possible legal action.

Six local unions and some parents and faculty claim Laura LaMore has done a poor job running the district’s special ed program.

They complain of poor placement of students and not enough staff. The petition even says, “Staff  fear bullying. So many great, experienced professionals have been pushed out or left because of poor working conditions, excessive caseloads and intimidation.”

School desks
Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Grand Rapids School Board wants to send every high school student in the city to college tuition-free.

The school board applied for Promise Zone designation with the Department of Treasury this week.

Downtown Grand Rapids
Grguy2011 / Public Domain

A new civics program is designed to help people new to Grand Rapids adjust to the city.

The Our City Academy program focuses on how to navigate the city and how to find important city and county facilities.

School desks
Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Grand Rapids Public School District could lose more than a million dollars due to a drop in enrollment.

Michigan schools are funded based on the number of students – or per pupil funded. So, fewer students mean less money for the district.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A team of eight community partners, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, health providers, and artistic groups are working together on a big project in Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood.

The group of organizations, along with help from the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, are taking five acres of blighted properties and transforming them into new mixed-income homes and apartments, a public high school, and a community center.

grand rapids school administrators at podium
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Leaders of Grand Rapids Public Schools say they’ve gained 160 students this school year, finally reversing a downward trend that’s lasted more than a decade.

The district has lost more than 3,000 students in 10 years. This is the first time since the fall of 2003 that the district gained students over the previous year.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A school that’s housed inside the Grand Rapids Public Museum is getting a $10 million boost.

The XQ Super School Project announced the national award today. The institute says it offered the money to get schools “to rethink and redesign the American high school.”

The money going to Grand Rapids Public Schools will help cover the costs of renovating the 80-year-old public museum building into a new high school.

Grand Rapids Public Schools get new social media policy

May 3, 2016
English 101 / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Grand Rapids School Board unanimously adopted yesterday a new policy to regulate employees’ use of social media.

The policy holds employees accountable for posting inappropriate content on social media and includes a list of examples.

wikipedia / creative commons

Grand Rapids Public Schools plans to test the drinking water in its schools  for lead.

The district will start with older buildings first. They are more likely to have lead pipes.

John Helmholdt is Communications Director for Grand Rapids Public Schools. He says the district had already planned to do the testing before high lead levels were found in some Flint homes and school buildings.

"This is all the more reason we should be doing it, having seen what our friends in Flint have gone through," says Helmholdt.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A program that’ll offer students in Grand Rapids free college is getting a big boost. A group of 400 donors has raised more than $33 million in one year.

Sixth-graders who commit to come to school regularly and get good grades can go to college for free. The scholarships target middle schoolers who funnel into a low-performing Grand Rapids high school.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A civil lawsuit filed in November against Grand Rapids Public Schools claims administrators failed to protect five teenage students from sexual assault. Now, the district is disputing those claims. It’s asking a federal judge to dismiss the case.  

Jamila Williams, a former math teacher at Grand Rapids University Prep Academy, was convicted of four counts of criminal sexual conduct for having sex with underage boys. She’s now in prison.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lawyers say Grand Rapids Public School administrators didn’t do enough to provide students a safe learning environment at one of its high schools.

Jamila Williams, a former math teacher at Grand Rapids University Prep Academy, was convicted of four counts of criminal sexual conduct for having sex with underage boys. She’s now in prison.

At a press conference today, the mothers of two of the victims claimed their sons lost friends, became depressed, and had academic problems because of the abuse. The mothers were not named to protect the privacy of their children.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan school districts are gearing up for the beginning of the school year.

Many school districts are holding kickoff events, including Grand Rapids Public Schools which drew hundreds of grade-school students and parents today.

Teresa Weatherall-Neal is Grand Rapids' school superintendent. She says it’s important for parents and children to realize summer is almost over.

"We need people to now switch gears. Summer is over. We need you to start thinking about school,” says Weatherall-Neal. “It’s time to come back.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week, Governor Rick Snyder made good on his promise to boost preschool spending.

Today he got a chance to talk to some parents, teachers and school administrators in Grand Rapids about the proposal.

About a dozen four-year-olds sat in a circle around Gov. Snyder. He read them "Snowmen at Work," a children’s tale about what snowmen do for a living.

“Are they in school just like you?” Snyder asked the group. 

"Yeah!” they replied in unison.

“You have fun at school?"

"Yeah!”

test with bubble answers
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The MEAP test has been used to evaluate kids and schools in Michigan for over four and a half decades.

The test is meant to make sure public schools are teaching kids the basics. But MEAP scores affect where parents decide to send their kids, neighborhood housing prices, city tax revenue, and city services.

Basically, the economics of a city rests on how well 8 and 9-year-olds perform on this single test.

State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer spent six weeks inside Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids, a school with consistently low MEAP scores. Dwyer followed a third-grade class as they prepared to take the test. He interviewed students, teachers, and parents, trying to figure out how much these numbers matter. What he found was, the test scores do not even begin to tell the story.

To hear the documentary now and learn more, visit the State of Opportunity website. 

School student in Japan reading a book outside
Mehan / Creative Commons

Lawmakers are working out the details of a proposal that would flunk Michigan students who can’t read at “proficient” levels by the end of the third grade.

Many in the education community are opposed to the legislation, including The Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies supports it.

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