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 www.grandforksherald.com.
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Growing student enrollment and other factors are behind a push for the Grand Forks School Board to approve hiring up to 20 educators today. The decision would mean better coverage across the district in areas such as special education and at elementary schools, where significant growth is expected this year, Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson told a finance committee last month. School administrators carefully considered each position, and that's always been their approach, he said. "We don't add any that we don't absolutely need," he said.
Grand Forks school counselor Denise Loftus recently told elementary students what happens when you wear the "give up" hat. To illustrate the idea, she donned a knitted black hat. "I can't even write my name in second grade," she woefully proclaimed. She took off the hat. "We learn that brain paths don't get made when you put on the give up hat," she said.
Jazz, tap, ballet and hip hop dancing took over the Chester Fritz Auditorium stage Friday during Dance Etc.'s annual spring recital. Dozens of dancers in elaborate costumes showed off their best moves, the final result of several months of practice, Director Hovi Straus said. Dancers as young as 18 months old showed their talents off to the audience. This year, the company is holding a special dance for high school students and their parents, Straus said. Girls will dance with their fathers or a male family member, and vice versa for the male dancers.
Northlands Rescue Mission CEO Russ Swagger quit the organization Thursday to spend more time with his family, he said Friday. Swagger, who has led the organization since 2014, said the weekly commute from Bismarck to Grand Forks had taken a toll. "I decided it would be best to try something else for now," he said. "But we did a lot of good things while we were there. The Mission is on good ground. The staff will take good care of it."
Some Grand Forks students were blown away Thursday by a special delivery from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. On a particularly windy day, a helicopter landed in front of Discovery Elementary as part of a field trip experience for students. U.S. Customs pilots Brandon Balkowitsch and Sheldon Atwood gave a brief talk explaining their job, different aspects of the rotorcraft and allowed some students to sit in the front seat. A large light attached to the bottom of the helicopter has such a powerful shine, it's "your flashlight times one million," Balkowitsch said.
WARREN, MINN.—Ever since Jose Paz Pruneda Jr. was born, he's divided his school year between Mexico, North Dakota and Minnesota. The son of Mexican migrant parents who travel for agricultural work, Pruneda works on school almost every month of the year, whether it's for a Manvel, N.D.-based migrant program or school in Warren, Minn., and in Mexico. If he's not in class, he's working on the farm with his family, he said. Then he starts the cycle all over again.
THOMPSON, N.D.—Thompson residents will vote Tuesday on an $11 million school renovation project. Superintendent John Maus said he hopes the bond referendum, which will add more elementary classrooms, a gym and a career and technical education wing, among other improvements, will be a 25-30 year answer for the K-12 school. This is the third time voters have hit the polls since 2012 to consider major improvements to the school, where student enrollment is expected to grow 32 percent over the next decade.
Grand Forks Public Schools' finance committee unanimously recommended Thursday that the district hire between 16 and 20 educators for the next school year. Growing enrollment, especially within the elementary schools, is one of the biggest reasons behind the need for more teachers, Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson said. Suggested hires include between four and six elementary school teachers and a wide range of other education positions, all for an estimated cost of between $788,500 to $1.1 million.
A Grand Forks school committee gave a clearer picture Monday of what a later start time for elementary schools will look like next year. Elementary students will arrive at 8:20 a.m. and be dismissed at 3 p.m.—except for 15 days when school ends at 1:30 p.m., amounting to a total 37.5 hours less for the year—to give teachers more time to create targeted plans for all students, elementary prep time study committee members told the School Board. Grand Forks begins its school day at 8:05 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.
Park River (N.D.) High School students can now call themselves state champions. They were among 18 schools that recently competed in the state's first Academic Olympic competition in Bismarck to test their knowledge of English, science, math and several other subjects. High school academic challenges aren't new to schools, but they're not usually held at the regional or state level, school officials have said. Competitions also traditionally focus on one subject area instead of several, they said.