Grand Rapids, Michigan — It was a big day in West Michigan today as the start of the school year started off with a new school.
One of the biggest is the opening of Grand Rapids Ellington Academy for Arts and Technology. It will become West Michigan’s first performing arts school despite a few bumps in the road along the way, but it will be opening on Tuesday, September 4th.
“It is absolutely amazing. It is so exciting. Myself, as well as the staff, the founders and all of the folks who have come together to form the planning committee, and the implementation committee are just elated,” said Tamela Brown, principal of the school.
Founders, the late Dr. MaLinda Sapp and husband, Grammy winning performing artist, Marvin Sapp, had plans to open the school in 2008 as one of Grand Rapids Schools of Innovation. Those plans were halted just before that school year. Then, in 2010, Dr. Sapp lost her long battle with colon cancer. Many, especially hopeful students, wondered if her dream of opening the performing arts school in Grand Rapids would ever come true. Now, they have their answer.
Tuesday students will come in and have a grand opening.
“They are our artists so we are to welcome them in an artist fashion with a red carpet, guest speakers,” said Brown. “Those who haven’t been here will be able to see the campus and hear an address from Dr. Marvin Sapp and then we have guest artist here to perform for them.”
The school will open Tuesday as a charter, offering students courses in performing and mixed media arts as well as technology and language. Brown said most of teachers have arts or performing arts backgrounds.
“For example, our science teacher is a dancer. They all have a background in the arts but they all have a specialty certification in their content areas,” she said.
GREAAT will also integrate arts into every day academic instruction. Brown said there has been a significant amount of interest in the new school
“Currently we have 179 students registered. We have a capacity of 225. We are getting 4 to 5 applications a day. So we are getting full really quick here,” said Brown. “We’re really trying to hold true to educating students in an alternative way. Really having the arts to influence their education and help retain the information that they are learning and to really have them learn to love learning and learn to love education.”
Brown said while students don’t need formal training, they got a chance to see some of the students during a summer camp in August.
“We have some wonderful talent. We have some wonderful students coming.” she said. “Dr. MaLinda Sapp had an amazing dream. I am so honored to be able to be a part of carrying that out and I think about her everyday on campus and really try to live up to the dream and vision that she had. We are staying true to what it was she wanted. We are offering all of the performing arts classes, dance, theater, music, band and so students will have an excellent experience here.”
This year the school will start with 6th, 7th and 8th graders and grow one year at a time until it offers grades 6 through 12. The school’s current 8th graders will be the first graduating class in 5 years.