The Elementary Facilities Plan
Our district’s teachers provide a high-quality education to our students. But students need enough space and the right space to learn their best. To continue the high-quality education the community expects, the School Board recommends building two new neighborhood elementary schools in Grand Rapids and renovating and expanding Cohasset Elementary to give students and teachers enough space and the right space to succeed.
The School Board plan follows the recommendations of the citizen-led Elementary Facilities Taskforce, which was made up of more than 200 volunteers who dedicated over 2,000 hours of their time to investigating the needs in the schools and exploring solutions.
Needs in the four elementary schools in Grand Rapids and Cohasset
- Not enough space for all students
- 14 portables classrooms in use
- 5th graders were moved to RJEMS to ease crowding in the elementary schools, this move has caused a space shortage and larger class sizes at the middle school
- Old schools are less efficient and aren’t designed for today’s teaching and learning
- There is very little space for small group individualized instruction, forcing lessons to take place in the hallway, in library aisles, and in converted closets.
- Limited access to technology in some classrooms.
How the 2018 School Board plan meets these needs:
- Builds two new, right-sized, neighborhood schools in Grand Rapids to replace the three current elementary schools; these two new schools would have enough of the right space to allow teachers to teach and students to learn 21st-century skills.
- Renovates and expands Cohasset Elementary to eliminate overcrowding at that school and create space for in-demand early childhood and community education classes, plus provide community wellness and activity space for all residents.
The Activity Facilities Plan
The 2018 School Board plan would make improvements to local activity and athletic facilities to meet the health, safety, and space needs of ISD 318 students and the larger community, including major improvements to the Bigfork locker and weight rooms, and installing turf at Noble Field, Legion Field, and the practice field.
Kids who participate in activities and athletics are more engaged in and often do better in school. They have higher GPAs, better attendance, and are less likely to drop out or experience truancy issues.
But at Bigfork and Grand Rapids High Schools, the state of our activity and athletic facilities limits the opportunities available to kids.
At Bigfork High School, classroom spaces are being used for locker rooms. The school is unable to host multi-sport competitions due to a lack of space. The Bigfork weight room was moved to a smaller, make-shift space away from the locker rooms and gym to accommodate a need for more classroom space.
At Grand Rapids High School, four sports have been added without adding field or practice space. Lacrosse hosts games on the practice field in poor conditions, and without restrooms or viewing areas. Kids who participate in sports and in the marching band train and practice in halls, in the parking lot, and on the streets, increasing the risk of injury.
How the 2018 School Board plan meets these needs
The School Board plan follows the recommendations of the citizen-led Activities Facilities Taskforce, which with coaches, parents, staff, and community members.
The plan includes
- Bigfork locker room and weight room improvements
- Adding turf to Noble Hall, the practice, and Legion Fields
- Legion Field would be acquired in a land exchange from the City of Grand Rapids
- Legion Field would include a removable mound, allowing the field to be used by a multitude of sports
- The benefits of the AFT's proposal are:
- Increasing the usability of all fields
- Provides needed facilities for Bigfork student and community use
- Maximizes all available space at the GRHS campus
- Creates a safe practice space for the GRHS Marching Band
- Lease savings for ISD 318
- Extensive opportunities for community use.
The total cost for these activity and athletic improvements is $5.3 million, which is 50 cents a month for the owner of a median-valued home in the district.
The Early Childhood Plan
Preschool working in hallThe 2018 School Board plan would add needed early childhood education space at Cohasset and would repurpose Southwest elementary as an early childhood education center for state-mandated programs and Invest Early classes.
Research shows that children enrolled in quality early childhood education are significantly more likely to achieve future benchmarks of success - even beyond school.
Unfortunately, our district's three to five-year-olds are at a disadvantage compared to children in neighboring districts. Currently, only 25% of eligible children in ISD 318 are enrolled in early childhood education, whereas in Deer River and Greenway, that number is 75-80%, For example, in Deer River, the recent renovation and expansion at Cyrus King Elementary provides the necessary early childhood education space to meet demand, as well as space for community education and a senior center. Here in ISD 318, the district has funding to operate more pre-K classes - but we don't have the space.
Right now, the district is leasing space throughout our community to provide early childhood programming. These fourteen pre-K classrooms are in the Itasca Resource Center, in church basements, and in other spaces not designed for early childhood education. We can't operate as efficiently as we could if the classes were held in a central location or locations with all the support services that students and staff need.
The cost of expanding space at Cohasset Elementary for early childhood classes is included in the 2018 School Board plan and in partnership with the City of Cohasset. Repurposing the space at Southwest would be funded with existing money from the district's budget.