The Grand Haven Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved the reconfiguration recommendation to have the district’s seven elementary schools serve grades K-4, White Pines Middle School serve grades 5-6 and Lakeshore Middle School serve grades 7-8.
The decision was spurred by a potential loss of $1.8 million in state funding if the district did not move forward with a full-day kindergarten program next school year.
Due to the additional kindergarten and Young Fives classrooms, Grand Haven Area Public Schools needed to reconfigure where fifth-graders will attend school.
Laura Burns, who has a student at Mary A. White Elementary School, has voiced concerns of the reconfiguration and the all-day kindergarten programming at previous board meetings and forums. On Tuesday, Burns said she still had unresolved concerns about the proposal.
“I’m asking you to not vote as a board,” she said to the school board. “I’m asking you to vote as individuals and set aside political agendas — and ask what is best for our kids, what is best for our community and what is best for our future.”
While the reconfiguration plans were approved, board members had the opportunity to speak before the roll-call vote was taken.
Trustee Dave Davis dismissed rumors that board members had already made up in their minds before Tuesday night’s vote.
“I did not make up my mind until last weekend,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I thought long and hard of every word I had with community members … and it is with great weight that I make this decision tonight.”
Several other board members echoed Davis’ thoughts on the weight community input had on their decision. They also thanked the reconfiguration committee for the time they put into the plan.
Trustee Caralee Nietering explained that she had “nightmares” of Tuesday’s outcome, knowing that it could have some repercussions in the future.
“But I really believe this is the correct way to lead and go for our students and staff,” she said.
School board Vice President John Siemion said: “This decision is not one of the easy ones … but we have to do what’s best for all students.”
Following approval for the reconfiguration plan, the board voted in a separate motion to change the district’s half-day kindergarten and Young Fives to all-day programs.
“This is certainly very difficult,” GHAPS Board President Chris Houghtaling said of the decision. “Change is always hard, but I do think this is in the best interest of our community.”
GHAPS Assistant Superintendent of Human Services Scott Grimes, who spearheaded the reconfiguration committee, said there is a lot of work to do to prepare for the changes.
“Right now, we’re in the process of working our way through all the staffing issues — what teachers will be assigned to which buildings,” he said after the meeting. “We have to go and collect input from our principals, and find out what tasks or concerns or issues are out there that we need to work on.”
Grimes said committees consisting of school administrators, teachers and parents will be formed to work through the changes.
“Things such as staffing, transportation, the physical move, curriculum, professional development — all those things that sometimes we take for granted, now we have to work with different groups of people to make sure they’re all in place,” he said. “So we have a lot of work to do.”
Grimes commended the reconfiguration committee — which also consisted of administrators, teachers and parents — for their hard work and “tough conversations.”
“I think what people need to know is — every person in that room had the best interest of kids in mind when they made those decisions,” he said.