GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Families in the Grand Rapids School District got their first chance Thursday night to speak out on a massive restructuring plan.
Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal's transformation plan was unveiled Monday. The district needs to save $5 million, and she's proposing to close ten schools.
Neal first laid out the plan, then turned over the microphones to parents and students for their reaction. The majority of the people who showed up Thursday night were Creston families -- and most called for an alternative to closing the school.
Students wore their hearts on their sleeves and showed both academic and safety concerns about consolidating schools.
"What will be the student to teacher ratio?" asked one girl.
The teenager also said gangs already exist in schools, and mixing Creston gangs with those in another school would create a much bigger problem.
Parents shared their concerns about transportation.
"Most of the parents don't want their kids on a city bus for an hour every day to get their and home," said Shelley Terrell.
With five kids in GRPS, Terrell is also worried about her children being accepted in a new environment and having to make new friends.
"Because there's not a north-end high school,"said Terrell. "Most of their friends that are going to go to high school aren't going to GRPS anymore. They're going to go to the outer areas."
The proposed cuts would also impact sports at Creston, like the growing cross-country and track program Dan Ebright started.
"If we lose the presence on the north end of town, a lot of our students are going to exit and go to Rockford or Northview," Ebright said.
One man in the audience believes students will transfer for academics, too.
"We've lost 7,000 kids since 2001 and that's directly the parents' decision," he said. "You can switch buildings around and do whatever you want to do, but if those standards don't change then things are going to just keep going downhill."
Superintendent Neal admits it will be an uphill challenge.
Four more community meetings are scheduled before she releases her next plan in mid-November:
- Thursday, November 8 - 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at Southwest Community Campus
- Saturday, November 10 - 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. at Ottawa Hills
- Thursday, November 15 - 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at Union
- Friday, November 16 - 4:00 p.m. -6:00 p.m. at Franklin Auditorium
If you can't attend the meetings, GRPS records each of them. The video is available at GRPS Meetings.