GRAFTON -- The North Dakota Board of Public School Education will vote on the reorganization of the St. Thomas School District and Grafton School District.
Under the plans drafted by the two districts’ school boards and approved Monday, Feb. 10, by the Walsh County and Pembina County reorganization committees, St. Thomas School District No. 43 and Grafton School District No. 3 would become Grafton School District No. 20. The reorganization committees will submit the plans and testimony from the hearing to the North Dakota Board of Public School Education for approval. Review of the plan is not yet on the agenda of the board which meets monthly except during July and December.
If the seven-member Board of Public School Education approves the reorganization plan, residents of the St. Thomas and Grafton school districts will vote on the issue.
The Pembina County Reorganization Committee voted 4-0 and the Walsh County. Reorganization Committee voted 3-0 to approve their respective school board’s reorganization plans during the Feb. 10 public hearing at the Walsh County Courthouse in Grafton.
The vote was preceded by 45 minutes of public comments. The comments from the six people who spoke were evenly divided for and against the reorganization.
“Do I want the school to close? Absolutely not, but there comes a time when the numbers just don’t jibe,” said Jacklyn McMartin, St. Thomas School Board vice president.
There are 39 students enrolled in K-12 in St. Thomas. Seven of the students are in grades seven through 12, and the remainder are in K-6.
Duane Littlejohn, a lifelong St. Thomas resident and outspoken opponent of the reorganization, reiterated his concerns, which included busing children from St. Thomas 30 miles round-trip to Grafton, less opportunity for St.Thomas students to participate in sports and the negative effect the loss of the St. Thomas school building and property would have on the community.
Nathan Green, a St. Thomas School Board member, noted that St. Thomas students have been in a sports cooperative with Grafton for several years and that the Grafton School District has offered St. Thomas help with teachers, in-service workshops and counseling.
Deanna Larson spoke in support of the St. Thomas School.
“I would really like to see our school stay open, even if it’s just K-6,” Larson said.
However, according to North Dakota Century Code ”The state board of public school education may not approve any reorganization plan that would result in the creation of an elementary district.”
The St. Thomas School board and the city are working on a plan for sale and transfer of ownership and property to the city. If the Grafton and St. Thomas school districts are reorganized and a plan for the building and property is not agreed upon by the time the reorganization goes into effect and if the ownership has not been transferred to the city of St. Thomas, the Grafton School District will assume ownership of the school and property.
If the building and property aren’t sold within a year after the reorganization goes into effect, the building will be demolished and the property will be cleaned and leveled in preparation to be sold.