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Grand Rapids schools want to hear what’s working, what’s not in ‘listening tour’

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Students at Creston High School talk about the closure of their school at the first 'listening tour' in 2012.

The head of Michigan’s fifth-largest school district is launching a “listening tour” this week.

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal says the Grand Rapids school district needs to succeed in order for the city to succeed, and because that impacts the entire region, she wants to hear from everybody.

“Children are in school a very, very short amount of time, about 25% of the day. The rest of the time they’re in this community. And so how best to help children in school than to go to the community and say ‘what do we want for these children 5 years, 10 years, 15 years out?’ It really is about building the city and we want our children to stay here,” Weatherall Neal said.

The listening tour is part of a larger “transformation plan” at GRPS.

The next phase of the plan includes uniforms for all student from kindergarten through 8th grade. It also includes plans for a new school that’ll be located within the Grand Rapids Public Museum. It’s based on the district’s very successful schools located within a zoo and a nature center.

“Kids love it! We have a waitlist for those programs. I don’t why it’s so popular other than it’s not in the traditional classroom where we’re lecturing about something – you actually get to touch it and feel it,” Weatherall Neal said.

But she’s also warning parents about another part of the plan that’s a little less popular with kids: school uniforms for kindergarten through 8th grade.

“The children don’t want it but it’s the right thing to do. In every message I’ve tried to put that out so parents are ready,” she said.

You can find a complete schedule of dates and times for the listening tour here.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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