This summer we are privileged to share the thoughts from Jenison families who stand as our most devoted and eager advocates. Please join us each week as we hear from parents with students of all ages.
My name is Debra Johnson and my husband is Pete. Our three daughters attend Bursley Elementary. Rebecca and Samantha are in 5th grade and Sara is in 3rd (Spanish Immersion Program.) I should let you know that Rebecca and Samantha are not twins. They are one month apart in age; it is a long story in itself, but we adopted Rebecca when I was very pregnant with Samantha.
We have been in Jenison for four years — since Rebecca and Samantha started first grade. Sara has been in Jenison since preschool. So our story really starts when my husband accepted a position in Grand Rapids. We moved from Macomb Township (Detroit area) to Grand Rapids eight years ago. The school district was very important to us as Rebecca is on the autism spectrum (very high functioning but definitely needed services).
Everyone we talked to, including the realtor, recommended the Forest Hills School District. So, we built a beautiful home in a beautiful subdivision in the Forest Hills School District. At first, we were very pleased but it soon became a disaster. A series of events including bullying and lack of special education intervention led us to decide to sell our home and move.
The question was, where?
We interviewed one district after another: Rockford, Lowell, and East Grand Rapids, to name a few. But, I did not believe any of the schools were a good fit for us.
Then I remembered I had gone to an autism conference at Penn State where I had met Carol Gray. She explained the importance of social stories and also told stories about the school district where she had worked. To my surprise, it was Jenison Public Schools. Even though she no longer worked for Jenison I felt it would be worth the time to interview Jenison. As soon as we met Rane Garcia at Bursley I knew we found our new school. We sold our home and moved to Hudsonville and attend Bursley as school of choice.