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GFAFB more serious about school closure due to expected drop in federal aid

An expected drop in federal aid next year has prompted Grand Forks Air Force Base to revisit the idea of closing one of its two elementary schools.

Although the base’s school district has toyed with the idea for several years, the School Board’s consideration is more serious now because of flat enrollment in the past few years, potential mission expansion at the base and lack of available housing, said Superintendent Larry Nybladh, who oversees the base’s school district and Grand Forks school district.

“Those three things indicate there hasn’t been improvement that may impact student enrollment in a positive way,” he said.

At the last School Board meeting, members decided to set up a public meeting for the base community to discuss options to consolidate Nathan Twining Elementary School and Carl Ben Eielson Elementary School. That meeting will be held sometime before April 15.

“(The board) wants to make sure that parents and other members of the Air Force base community know and understand the enrollment situation, the financial situation and of course, the educational implications as well,” Nybladh said. 

Two years ago, a vote for consolidation failed. But a few things have changed since then — the district has a better grip on enrollment information and 100 percent of housing is currently in use at the base, with no plans to expand that, he said.

“The prospect of additional enrollment increases is limited not only to personnel in current and future missions, but also the availability of housing itself,” he said.

Nybladh said he hopes the turnout for the public meeting is strong.

“Two years ago, there were probably a dozen people there,” he said. “We’re hopeful people will come and voice their interests and concerns.”

View a draft of a FAQ about the potential school closings here

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson is the K-12 education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald.  Contact her if you have any story ideas or tips and visit 

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