Dreaming big

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:19 PM

Innovative, high performing and world class.

Those were a few of the words parents and staff used to describe the qualities they want Spring Lake Public Schools to convey.

About 200 community members filled tables and chairs in Holmes Elementary School’s gym on Thursday night to discuss the vision they have for the district. It was the first of two vision planning sessions for the school system.

As participants settled in their chairs for the two-hour meeting, the district’s superintendent, Dennis Furton, presented an empty metal chair for them to consider as a student's — and think of ideas that would better the educate that imaginary child.

Furton asked that the audience not debate how to make ideas happen, but instead to dream big and develop a collective dream for learning.

"Tonight's not about adults," Furton said. "It's about the children at Spring Lake Public Schools."

Team members from TMP Architecture, recently hired by the district to assist with creating a bond study, were on hand to help look at the district’s future from a variety of angles — from 21st-century learning, technology integration, and how students think and learn.

After discussing the image of what the community would like their schools to look like, participants broke into groups around tables to tackle several topics, then joined together to report their ideas.

Ideas participants came up with included mentoring opportunities for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade, a community liaison for each building, solving traffic issues, and opportunities for students to engage with the community through community service.

Participants were asked to consider what ideas would create more collaborative learning opportunities for students. Some of the ideas included mentoring between grades, project-based learning space, and opportunities for students of different grades to join together and learn.

Parents were asked to put themselves into the shoes of a young student to think of what a school should include for grades kindergarten through fourth. The ideas included fun and quiet rooms for students to take breaks from the rigorous school day, more books in all schools, age-appropriate furniture, and field trips.

The group then envisioned schools for grades 5-8. Ideas from discussions around the room consisted of more one-to-one technology, activity exploration such as dance and art, and efforts to better welcome the transition of schools for fifth- and eighth-graders.

On Friday, Furton said 30-40 middle and high school students will gather to discuss similar topics and provide their feedback as they envision the district’s future. He said they could provide insight to items that were overlooked by the adults.

The district will hold a second Vision Planning Session at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at Jeffers Elementary School. At that session, the community will have a chance to build on Thursday’s ideas and prioritize them.

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

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