GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Amid an approximately 27.5 percent increase in enrollment over the past year, a Christian private school system in Grand Rapids is expanding its elementary and secondary campuses to accommodate growth and better serve their students.
NorthPointe Christian Schools is expanding and enhancing its pre-Kindergarten/elementary campus at 540 Russwood St. NE with six additional classrooms and enhanced science and arts offerings.
“At the elementary level, the impetus is to better meet the needs of our current base,” said Todd Tolsma, director of schools for NorthPointe Christian Schools.
“We don’t have specialized rooms for music, art. “We want to be able to do our STEAM curriculum, which is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) but with added arts, and so that will allow us to better meet the needs of our students and serve our families.”
The goal is to start construction the first week of April and finish it in September, as close to the start of the new school year as possible, Tolsma said.
On the middle/high school campus, located at 3101 Leonard St. NE, plans include seven new classrooms to accommodate growing enrollment, a new music and orchestra room, and science room upgrades with new equipment. Construction will also see a second story shell constructed for future expansion.
The expansion will expand dual and concurrent enrollment course offerings, where students can earn college credits on campus, as well as the program where a student participates in an internship two days a week. Additionally, expanded opportunities from pre-K through 12 in Spanish Immersion classes will be offered.
“Part of that is to better serve our existing constituency, but it also allows us to grow at that level (of new registrations),” Tolsma said.
Construction plans for the expansion are being finalized, but Tolsma said the goal is to start this summer and have the buildings ready before the start of the 2023-2024 school year in August 2023.
Other improvements include resurfacing the eight middle and high school tennis courts and converting the soccer field into a dual-use field that would also be used by the school’s soccer team. Tiers that can accommodate approximately 800 people would be added.
The expansion and betterment capital campaign, called Forward in Faith, began around 2018. Since then, parents, teachers, alumni, and even students have raised just under $7 million to make the possible project.
That includes a $2 million donation from someone who does not wish to be named at this time, Tolsma said.
The expansion comes at a time of considerable enrollment growth. At this time last year, Tolsma said the district had about 820 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade. Last week, the district had 1,046 students, an enrollment growth of approximately 27.5%.
Tolsma attributed the growth to the values the district instills in its young learners. During his 14th year as principal, he said he could not recall a larger year-on-year increase in student enrollment.
“To my knowledge, percentage-wise, that’s been the biggest percentage growth (in signups),” he said. “And I really believe it’s a system of values, the values that families seek for their children. If they have to hand them over to someone for eight hours a day, they want to make sure they are aligned with their values and belief system.
NorthPointe Christian Schools is an independent, non-denominational Christian school with over 150 churches represented in the area across 27 different denominations.
“The unifying factor for us is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” Tolsma said. “Our goal and mission is to equip students to impact their world for Christ by providing quality Christ-centered education.”
The district lost about 100 enrolled students in the first year of the pandemic, Tolsma said. Before the pandemic, enrollment was around 920 to 940 students. The increase in enrollment from before the pandemic to today is around 12.5%.
The school interviews each family wishing to be admitted. One of the criteria for admission is that at least one family member must have a personal relationship with Jesus and attend a Bible-believing church, Tolsma said.
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