Elementary plans revealed

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:14 PM

After months of discussion, the Spring Lake Elementary Planning Committee has revealed its recommendation for "re-imagining" elementary education in the school district.

The committee presented its findings before educators and more than a half-dozen anxious parents in the Spring Lake Intermediate School’s media center Monday night.

The committee found that a standard reconfiguration in the district wasn’t the best option, but there are ways they can improve the schools and educational opportunities to become better.

Jeffers Elementary School Principal Shelley Peets, who was on the committee, said the picture is bigger than moving students throughout the district with a standard reconfiguration.

“We didn’t see benefit in that,” she said.

The committee took the audience through an outlined tour of the past few months of their journey to reach a conclusion. Holmes Elementary School Principal Sandra Smits said the committee would start looking at one thing and then end up in a different place.

The committee met for two hours every other week since November 2012. They looked at three scenarios: create a lower and upper elementary system, remain the same, or build a new elementary school for children kindergarten through fourth grade.

Throughout their lengthy and sometimes heated discussions, committee members said they were unable to reach a consensus on what to do — until they shifted the focus of their discussion from creating a new building to how they can better meet the needs of the students. The discussion then became about what they can offer the younger Spring Lake students that would help them reach the next level.

Committee members toured two area elementary schools to help get their creative juices flowing.

They then created a list of skills students need for 21st-century learning. The list includes critical thinking, problem solving, leading by influence, adaptability and inquiry-based learning.

In order to address those skills, Peets said the committee decided space is a big issue. From math interventionists leading groups in school hallways to physical therapists having sessions in foyers, there isn’t enough room to allow such collaborations.

“These are our challenges we’re dealing with in our buildings,” Peets said.

The committee said the current space constraints are limiting student achievements. Additional security, aging heating systems, and the need for updated classroom furniture and technology are among the committee’s other findings.

During his report to the board, Superintendent Dennis Furton said they aren’t looking at any concrete proposals at this time. Instead, the district is moving toward engaging district residents directly for a vision, which is how the community can get involved in developing a plan.

Furton said all district parents and community members are encouraged to attend the upcoming vision planning sessions to help officials identify areas they should look at and identify what they want to improve in the district. The sessions are set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at Holmes Elementary School; and at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at Jeffers Elementary School.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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