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One East: Restoring, Adding and Maintaining Programs and Supports This School Year

A message from East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation Executive Director Amy Stuursma:

As needs change, we’re being responsible and responsive. 

Last spring, when the pandemic hit, East Grand Rapids Public Schools were facing a projected budget deficit of more than $2 million. We put out a call for help, and you responded. In less than two months last summer, donors to One East raised nearly half a million dollars for our schools.

Change. Over the summer, as government stimulus money generated increased sales tax revenue, the budget outlook improved. Revised economic outlook figures at the end of August projected state school funding would not be cut.

Change. This fall, EGRPS was able to open all our schools on time and in person. The district also was able to provide a full virtual option for families who chose not to have their children attend in person. And the district offered an option that gave East kids the opportunity to have remote learning taught by EGRPS teachers. 

Change. That robust offering meant enormous costs for the district. To protect the safety of in-person learners, the district purchased equipment and hired additional cleaning crew. To reach virtual learners, the district contracted with a third-party vendor and invested in new technology. And the district hired new teachers to offer virtual learners education that met the EGRPS tradition of excellence.

Change. The need for the money raised through One East didn’t go away. The need changed.

Last week, the Foundation Board approved the district’s request for the $490,000 raised through One East. At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the trustees approved the district’s balanced budget, which was made possible by the One East funds. Today, we are proud to announce additional details of how the funds raised through One East will be allocated:

1. Instructional support for in-person learning ($293,500)
Restoration of programs:
     *Reading support K-5
     *10% building budgets for educational resources 
Additional supports:
     *Two floating substitute teachers
     *Customized equipment that will eventually enable band classes to meet indoors
Maintenance of current programs:
     *Electives available to grades 6-12 (math lab, study skills and innovation lab)
     *Student clubs and activities grades 6-12

2. Support for virtual learners ($164,000)
Additional programs and supports:
     *Virtual EGRPS teachers
     *90 additional student devices for K-12

3. Enhanced health and safety measures ($32,500)
Restoration of support:
     *Custodial staff for daily cleaning in all buildings

The instructional support for in-person learning will help students in every one of our schools. It includes the restoration of two items that were on the list of budget cuts announced in June: reading support for K-5 students and building budgets at each school.

The support for virtual learners comes in the form of EGRPS virtual teachers for elementary students. Not only are these teachers serving our students who are not attending in person, by doing so they’re also keeping class sizes smaller for in-person learners. One East will also fund the purchase of 90 additional devices that connect our students to their virtual classrooms. 

Finally, the enhanced health and safety measures come in the form of restored custodial staffing. This is a restoration of daytime cleaning positions that were eliminated due to budget cuts years ago. Daytime custodians will help to create the healthiest possible learning environment for our students, teachers and staff.

Looking forward, there’s more uncertainty ahead. Change is the only constant. But we are following through on our promise to our One East donors that every dollar raised will be used to help our schools and our students. To honor our donors’ intent, the way the One East funds will be used has evolved. The request from the district is in keeping with our mission to enhance teaching and learning in our schools. That’s what we do. And that will never change.

I know that there has been a lot of community discussion about how best to use the funds raised through One East. I encourage you to contact me directly if you still have questions. I’m happy to answer them. Thank you for your support!

-Amy Stuursma
Executive Director, East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation