GRPS is Michigan’s eighth-largest public-school district and the third-largest employer in the City of Grand Rapids, serving nearly 15,000 students with over 2,800 employees, including 1,084 dedicated teachers. The student population represents more than 80 countries with over 70 different languages spoken, creating a value-added educational experience and benefit that is above and beyond basic education.
GRPS proudly offers the largest selection of school choices in all of West Michigan, including neighborhood schools, theme schools, Centers of Innovation, Success Centers, and one charter school.
Neighborhood schools offer traditional education. GRPS has 24 neighborhood schools serving students in either PK-5th grade or PK-8th grade. Elementary and PK-8 schools have specific neighborhood attendance area boundaries where every child living in the attendance area is eligible to attend the school. Elementary schools are now offering Fall, Winter, and Spring athletics and several offer LOOP after school programming.
Theme schools offer the core curriculum through a unique lens, including environmental science, arts and music, global studies, leadership, Montessori, International Baccalaureate and more. In many theme schools, students have the opportunity for place-based education and exciting extracurricular programming to enhance their learning. GRPS has 13 theme schools, each with a customized curriculum and unique academic offerings that are centered around a certain theme. Applications are required, admissions criteria may apply, and seats are limited. Some limited attendance area seats are available for students who live in the immediate neighborhood around a particular theme school.
GRPS has four Centers of Innovation. Launched in 2008, the Centers of Innovation are unique public-private partnerships that offer students a rigorous classroom education along with opportunities to connect with professional mentors, complete job shadowing and internships, and earn college and trade school credits or career certification to prepare them for in-demand, high paying careers. Applications are required.
GRPS has two Success Centers. Formerly known as alternative education schools, the GRPS Student Success Centers are designed to support students who may be credit deficient, off-track academically, or have experienced other challenges that required an alternative educational setting.
GRPS has one charter school: The Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center. The GRPS Charter School is an authorized, non-profit public school academy by the Grand Rapids Board of Education. It is an independent school that operates outside of the district based on their own educational model with oversight of an advisory board appointed by the Grand Rapids Board of Education and annual reporting requirements.
Schools may also offer services for English Language Learners; “community schools” with social, health, and mental health services embedded; all-day preschool; all-day kindergarten; and much more.
Eleven schools are new, state of the art buildings with the latest technology and educational designs to support instruction and learning. Eight of the schools are green-built and five are LEED-certified; making GRPS a leader in the state and nation on green built schools.
In November 2008, GRPS was recognized in a Detroit News editorial opinion as a “model” urban school district for its bold and innovative education reforms that are producing significant academic gains.
GRPS is also emerging as a leader in Michigan on consolidation and cost-sharing services. GRPS currently manages food services for East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, and four parochial schools, and five charter schools; and public safety training for several public and private schools in the area.
GRPS has also earned a reputation for its sound fiscal management and stewardship. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s improved the district’s bond rating from negative to stable. According to S&P, “The outlook revision is due to our view of the district’s improved reserve position and management’s ability to implement budgetary adjustments in response to declining enrollment and the uncertainty of state funding.”
The district’s public safety department has received numerous awards and is recognized as one of the leading school public safety departments that have utilized technology, training, and relationship-building to reduce the number of major school incidents.
In January 2012, Teresa Weatherall Neal was appointed as Superintendent and went on an aggressive listening tour with four basic questions. What is working? What isn’t? What are the barriers? What are the solutions? More than 1,000 individuals participated in small group meetings, large community meetings, surveys, and more. Superintendent Neal used the results of the Listening Tour, Phase II Building Improvement Plan, Cambridge Report, Academic Plan, and 5 Year Strategic Plan to develop a bold, comprehensive plan aimed at restoring stability and growth to GRPS. The GRPS Transformation Plan received overwhelming support from the community and was unanimously approved by the Grand Rapids Board of Education in December 2012. Since then, it has been the driving force behind the energy, excitement, and momentum growing around GRPS!
In a short amount of time, the Transformation Plan has shown significant results: Graduation rates have increased for seven consecutive years, including double-digit increases for African American and Hispanic/Latino students; test scores are trending up across the district; chronic absenteeism has dropped by 25%; staff morale is up; GRPS is one of few urban districts in the state that saw its bond rating not only increase from negative to stable but also remain stable for 4 years. GRPS is now poised to be one of the first urban districts in the state and nation to grow enrollment.