GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Friday is the last day of school for Grand Rapids Public School students, and next year promises to bring many new faces and changes.
The district has implemented an aggressive transformation plan designed to new energy and stability to the district. Unfortunately for some, it also means saying goodbye.
"Change is hard for everybody, no matter what. We are a big district so when we do change we do it big," said Tricia Shenefield, principal at Covell Elementary.
This week Covell's teachers were packing up their classrooms as the school year winds to a close.
Shenefield says saying goodbye to students and colleagues is always bitter sweet. But this time, it is especially hard because it will be the last time teachers empty out their rooms at the school.
"This year there have been a lot of more emotions going on with everybody going in different directions," she said.
Covell is one of several schools closing permanently as part of the district's plan. Among the others are Shawnee Park Elementary, Campau Park Elementary and Creston High.
"This transformation plan is not just about cuts and closures. It is about reinvesting and renewal of the district," said John Helmholdt, GRPS spokesperson. "The other benefit of that is we are going to stabilize the district. We've had ten years of churn, cuts, closures, layoffs. all that has contributed to the academic and financial challenges. So we are going to go big but this is going to stabilize the district."
Helmholdt says the the changes will save the district more than $22 million over the next five years.
"It is about stop doing what isn't working and reinvest those savings in what is working," said Helmholdt. "We are reinvesting in our theme schools. We are consolidating our centers of innovation -- four of them, all under one roof at the old Central High building. We are reopening Stocking Elementary, a neighborhood school. We are re-purposing the old Gerald R. Ford Middle School Building it will be reopened as a new K-8 theme school."
Shenefield is encouraged by the plan but admits everyone was "shocked" and saddened initially.
"I told them in the beginning, when we found out we were closing, this is an opportunity for everybody to move up and start something new and to have some change in their lives. There is nothing we can do about it so we need to make the best of it," she said.
And from the looks of it, they have. Shenefield say her teachers are keeping a positive attitude about the school closing and doing every thing they can to make the transition easier for parents and the school's 238 students.
"To keep things for the kids sake. they don't know any different so to keep things going for the kids and give them the best year we can," she said.
Covell's students will go to Harrison Park Elementary unless their parents select a theme school.
Helmholdt says it is not too late to apply for those. Parents can do so on the school's website.
He also said of all the changes happening next year , the hardest to sell has been school uniforms.
Helmholdt encourages parents to learn what shcool their students will attend next year as soon as possible.
More information can be found on the GRPS website.