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Parents Explore Choices At GRPS Expo

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 29, 2013

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After laying out its future plan in December, Grand Rapids Public Schools is starting a time of transition, and parents are deciding which school is the best fit for their children.

Dozens of families attended the We Are GR School Choice Expo Tuesday night at Gerald R. Ford Middle School.  While the district holds several expos every year, they say now it’s a priority for a lot of families, given all the changes the district is going through.

Teachers and faculty with handmade posters and even chickens, ready to share what makes their school special.

“It’s hard for parents to go from school to school,” said Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.  “So I like to just bring (families) to one location so parents can get a chance to shop.”

Parents walk from table to table, asking questions and collecting brochures from each school.

Next fall, the district begins to implement its Transformation Plan, including some gender-specific classrooms, requiring uniforms, closing buildings and moving neighborhood boundaries.

“A lot of our families have strong ties to their neighborhood schools, so they’re established there,” said Kalli Zeilbauer, GRPS Communications.  “I think a lot of them are going to stay (at their current school.)”

Some parents, like Jodi Schmalz, will take advantage of other options like a Montessori school for her active toddler.

“I just can’t picture him being the kind of kid to sit in one place and listen to lesson after lesson,” Schmalz said as her son chases a red balloon across the gym floor.  “He’s got to get up and move and explore on his own.”

Schmalz said she’s committed to GRPS and is also looking into theme schools for her Fourth grader, Cohen, so he can focus on Science.

“I just like seeing stuff mix and seeing what happens,” Cohen said.

Theme schools are open to younger students, while the Innovation Center caters to high school kids.

“(The Innovation Center has) health sciences, engineering, academy for design and construction, so you can get more of a focused education,” explains Zeilbauer.  “(The theme schools have) environmental education, arts curriculum so you can choose a more customized education for your child.”

Students have to apply and be accepted in to the theme schools and Innovation Center.  The first round of applications are due Feb. 28, after that, the district said families could end up on a waiting list.