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Back to School across West Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - It is Back to School day for most students around West Michigan today.

Grand Rapids Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor walked the red carpet at Gerald R. Ford Middle School with one of many students to kick off the day.

About 50 community leaders who are part of the Believe 2Become initiative; city council members, school leaders, and other prominent community members are acting as the paparrazi for the event.

A dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony will be held Tuesday morning for the newly renovated and refurbished school of business, leadership and entrepreneurship at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids.

The school partnered with Amway for the program that started last year as one of four centers of innovation. Ottawa Hills renovated part of its building to house the school of business. Amway along with Steelcase and Custer Workplace worked on equipping it with the latest technology.

Economy has negative impact on some faith-based schools in Grand Rapids area

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Thousands of West Michigan children headed back to school Tuesday but for the first time in 16 years, students at North Hills Classical Academy were forced to go somewhere else after their school suddenly shut down.

Over the summer the school moved into a new building, acquired a new board of trustees and seemed to be moving forward. Then last week, parents got the surprising news.

"It is a very difficult time for North Hills I'm sure I know how we would feel," said Tom DeJonge, superintendent of Grand Rapids Christian Schools, another West Michigan faith-based school district.

Windy day causing power outages; search for missing man in Ludington postponed

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Strong winds are creating some scattered power problems around West Michigan.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, Consumers Energy is reporting 2,615 outages in Kent County, 1,110 in Muskegon County, 713 in Ottawa County, and 370 in Allegan County.

Mecosta County has 1,268 outages, Manistee County has 985, Ionia County has 514, Newaygo County has 307, and Montcalm County has 226.

If you do encounter a downed power line Consumers Energy wants to remind you to stay away and call 911.

83-year-old convention bureau changes name to Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids (WZZM) - The Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau today announced a new name for the 83-year-old organization - Experience Grand Rapids.

The organization says that the new name and brand more accurately reflects the organization's mission to market the region.  

The development of the new brand is the result of a two-year process of analysis and research that engaged the organization's leadership, staff and community members. The name change also mirrors recent trends by other cities and destination marketing organizations that have made a similar switch, such as Visit Denver and Discover Kalamazoo.

Veteran puts finishing thumb print on ArtPrize entry

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM)- An ArtPrize contestant got her final stamp of approval Friday afternoon finishing her entry. 

World War II veteran and author of "Blue Skies and Thunder" Virgil Westdale put the final thumb print on an American flag created by Sherrie Coke.  Coke took a white washed American glad and used the red and blue thumb prints of American veterans to bring the flag's colors back to life.

Veteran Virgil Westdale says, "There are 600 more, I guess, Veterans that have put their thumb prints on the flag and that's an honor."

Artist Sherrie Coke says, "I've met some wonderful men and women and they've shared their stories with me and they are so excited about this."

The artists says her inspiration came from the time she spent volunteering at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

Recycling on the rise in Kent County

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WZZM)- People in Kent County are recycling more since the county opened its new recycling center.  Public Services Director James Hurt says the amount of recycled waste in the first three weeks of August was 25% higher than the same time last year.

The county recently finished distributing 35,000 recycling bins for its new processing plant.  The facility sorts recyclables so residents do not have to. 

People say they are more willing to take part in the easier system.  Resident Beverly Reid says, "I see more people using them now that they've been delivered to everyone.  I see more of the bins out, the large rolling bins than I did see the smaller bins, so I think more people are utilizing them now which is a good thing."

Over the next few weeks crews will visit homes that they missed during the recycle bin drop-off.  They will also swap out bin sizes.

Grand Rapids man going to prison for child pornography

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM)- A Grand Rapids man convicted on child pornography charges is going to prison.  A judge has sentenced 28-year old Nicholas Job Woodard to six years in prison.  The Grand Rapids man will also spend the rest of his life on probation.

The Department of Justice says Woodard used a computer to download and share thousands of lewd images of children. 

An undercover FBI agent arrested Woodard. He pleaded guilty to three counts of distributing child pornography.