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State of Our Schools includes plans to transform GRPS

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Grand Rapids Public Schools laid out their plans for the future Saturday morning at the annual State of Our Schools address.

The speech at Ottawa Hills High School focused on new ideas surrounding innovation centers within the district.

Educators and parents jammed the school Saturday morning, listening to Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal talk about the future, but it all starts with students attending class.

"We're going to focus on attendance, you guys, we will turn more people in to the prosecuting attorney if they don't send our children to school. We have teachers that are ready to teach," Neal says.

She told the crowd the district will continue to invest in themed schools and fix up school buildings, but she also announced a new farm school concept, creating urban farm environments at Montessori schools, hands-on learning built around seed-to-market theories.

Grand Rapids Public School spokesman John Helmholdt says, "These kids are going to write the business plan and then negotiate with the Fulton Street markets and downtown markets and see how we can actually have the produce be sold to one or more of those markets."

The district is focused on a new innovation central high school idea, where four schools are transformed into centers of innovation.

School leaders say all of this takes time and money, but when it comes to the environment, they don't want to be left behind.

"We cannot have our children miss the boat when everybody in the city and the country is learning about sustainability," Neal says.

The first phase surrounding these innovation centers starts in the fall of 2015.