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Steelcase’s unique pyramid-shaped building will house K-college STEM school next fall

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Plans for a new school in West Michigan for students in kindergarten through college are moving forward. The school will focus on science, math, technology, arts and engineering.

There was some controversy when news of the school first came out this spring.

Jerry Zandstra represents the non-profit group that’s buying the massive pyramid-shaped building from furniture-maker Steelcase.

He says existing public, private, charter schools and colleges can rent space in the new school.

“We’re going to ask them to collaborate and share resources, share space, and in some cases maybe even share teachers and ideas. So it’ll be interesting to see the kinds of creative things that they’re able to come up with,” Zandstra said.

The group is buying the building from Steelcase for $7.5 million. The group won’t close on the deal until mid-February. The unique building was once home to Steelcase’s research and development. It’s was first listed for $20 million. Originally, Steelcase said it would donate the building to the group, but buying it was easier for both parties, according to Zandstra.

Zandstra says the school will open next fall. He expects between four and five K-12 schools and two and three colleges will offer programs in the building its first year. He believes the number of programs will increase over the next three to five years, eventually serving roughly 6,000 students.

“I mean we’re going to have quite a bit of work to do. It’s a long ramp up period. Schools will come in over time,” he said.

He says each school will have a representative on a “leadership council” that will help guide collaborations. Grand Rapids Community College Board Chair and former Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bert Bleke leads the council now.  

“But each school will maintain its own unique identity,” Zandstra said.

He declined to say which schools are planning to have programs in the new building.

He says they’re developing a scholarship fund for students who graduate high school in the building and want to attend college there too.

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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