Over the next three weeks, the sixth-graders are taking part in a project-based learning unit to craft suggestions for the city on what should be done with the land where the decommissioned power plant sits.
The coal-fired plant, off Pine Avenue and on the Lake Macatawa waterfront, was decommissioned in 2017, and the city and Board of Public Works are looking next at what can be done with the property.
The project is part of the sixth-graders College Advisory Program class, Black River’s alternative to homeroom.
“I’ve been trying to teach more local government the past couple of years, and this was a good way to bring that in,” said Brent Rowe, middle school history teacher and CAP teacher.
The students have visited the James DeYoung site and are currently working through brainstorming ideas.
On Monday, Sept. 10, Holland City Councilman Raul Garcia stopped by to talk with students during their CAP class. Students asked Garcia about topics like budgeting, environmental remediation at the site and the condition of the building.
“People may assume that because you’re young, your ideas are unrealistic, farfetched or not worth considering,” Garcia said. “I beg to differ. You guys are creative and can think outside the box in a way many adults don’t.”
At the end of three weeks, the students will give three-minute pitches on their ideas for the site, and Rowe said he’ll send them on to Garcia and the rest of city council.
According to a presentation given during the Aug. 22 Holland City Council meeting, in September there will be a “kickoff conversation” and open house opportunities in September or November about the planning process for the James DeYoung site. There will be public outreach sessions, design workshops and charrettes and seven public meetings/presentations.
So far, the process of deciding what will become of the site has been in private “advisory task force” meetings with various city staff and stakeholders present.
Garcia encouraged the students and their families to get involved in the public process.
“As you do this project, think even broader than just the one property,” he said. “Think about what you want to see when you cross the bridge and enter downtown Holland.”