Grand Rapids Begins Construction of Two Elementary Schools

Baihly Warfield
Updated: May 06, 2019 09:19 PM

The Grand Rapids school district has taken the first step in changing how and where its elementary students go to school. 

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After a failed referendum in 2015 and a successful one in 2018, the last year has been spent designing two new elementary schools and asking contractors for bids. And on Monday afternoon, district officials, parents and others celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new buildings. 

Superintendent Joni Olson called it a "historic moment." 

"Our current elementary schools are very cramped. They're very crowded," Olson said. "And there are many parts of our schedule that are truly driven by what can occur at certain times of day based on when we serve food, when the gym is available."

Right now, Grand Rapids students are split between three schools: Murphy, Forest Lake and Southwest. The district also includes Cohasset and Bigfork. 

Beginning the fall of 2021, Grand Rapids kids will go to one of two schools: an East site and a West site. Their permanent names are yet to be determined.

"With new spaces, we'll be able to envision schedules differently, we'll be able to collaborate within and between grade levels," Olson said. 

This summer, the district will begin working with families and the transportation department to determine boundaries. 

But while building is going on over the next two years, Superintendent Olson said current students won't notice much of a change, 

"We'll be planning for schedules for new elementary schools. And we'll be providing professional development to our staff, who will be part of those new elementary schools. So lots will happen behind the scenes. Probably won't see a lot of changes that will impact students directly until they move to the new sites," she said.

Once that happens, the existing buildings will be repurposed or sold. Olson said Southwest will be used for early childhood development classes. Forest Lake is part of a land exchange and will be demolished to make way for a housing development. According to Olson, there aren't any concrete plans for the Murphy Elementary building yet, but it may be used for early childhood programs, depending on state funding. 

Cohasset Elementary will also be renovated and expanded. There will be a ceremony to mark the beginning of that project June 3. 

Students are expected to begin attending classes at the new Grand Rapids schools in September 2021. 


Baihly Warfield

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