Grand Rapids Public Schools revise selection process

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) recently changed the selection process for its theme schools and centers of innovation.

The process was changed because parents and residents notified administrators that the current process prevented many in-district students from being selected. Under the old process, 85 percent of the seats were reserved for students living within the GRPS district. The remaining 15 percent were reserved for out-of-district students.

Superintendent Teresa Neal assigned a team to investigate the truths of these claims. She was involved with reviewing the data with the team.

“The team found that our practice of reserving 15 percent of seats for out-of-district students was doing a disservice to in-district students,” said Neal in a letter to parents explaining the new process.

GRPS emphasizes their obligation to give in-district students first choice. The new selection process, according to Neal, will accept students in this order:

  1. In-district students who currently have a sibling attending the school he or she is applying for.
  2. Any student currently living in the GRPS district, children of GRPS employees and non-residents attending a GRPS.
  3. Children of GRPS employees who do not live in the district and out-of-district students that have a sibling currently attending the school of interest.
  4. Any non-resident student that has a sibling attending a school in the GRPS district.

After these requirements, if there are any seats leftover, up to 15 percent of out-of-district students will be selected.

Each theme school concentrates on a distinct curriculum that is based on a certain theme or teaching style. There are theme schools for all grade levels. For example, some theme schools are Grand Rapids Montessori, Coit Creative Arts Academy and Sherwood Park Global Students Academy. Centers of Innovation institutions, mainly for grades 9-10 include Academy of Health, Sciences and Technology at Innovation Central High and CA Frost Environmental Science Academy.

Some theme schools, such as Blandford School and the Center for Economicology, are only for sixth graders and are test-in schools. Ranking in the 99th percentile on Michigan’s top-to-bottom school ranking list, they both have about 60 openings. Many students who apply end up on a waiting list.

“It was not my intention to make a change in procedure this late in the process; however, I could not in good conscience allow deserving GRPS students to go without seats in their home district for the upcoming school year,” said Neal.

The application will be open until March 15 due to this change.