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East Grand Forks Public Schools’ $8 million renovations underway

Workers are putting together new parking lots, new roofs and other large-scale upgrades at three of East Grand Forks Public Schools' four buildings this summer. The school district is borrowing the money it will need to pay for that work.

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Work continues on the new parking lots at Central Middle School in East Grand Forks, Thursday, July 15, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

East Grand Forks School District buildings are under more than routine maintenance this year.

School Board members in November 2020 approved the sale of $8.39 million worth of 15-year bonds that will pay for new roofs, reworked parking lots and other large-scale work at three of the school district’s four buildings: Central Middle School, and New Heights and South Point elementary schools. The district plans to pay back those bonds with a mixture of general fund money and “long-term facilities and maintenance” money it receives from the state government. Repayments will total about $600,000 per year through 2036, according to a payment schedule provided to the Herald.

School districts across Minnesota receive “LTFM” money that’s based on the number of students enrolled there. East Grand Forks is in line for about $800,000 annually, according to district staff. The bond repayments will gobble up about half of that for the next 15 years.

School districts generally use their long-term maintenance money to help pay for larger projects in staggered increments: a new boiler one year and a resurfaced parking lot one year, a new roof the next and so on.

But, in East Grand Forks, all four public school buildings were built shortly after the 1997 flood, which means all four have been due for a lot of the same long-term projects at around the same time. In a similar vein, workers installed a new wing on East Grand Forks High School, updated its heating and cooling systems, and more after Eastside voters narrowly approved the $20.6 million renovation in 2015.

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Superintendent Mike Kolness told the Herald he doesn’t expect any further large-scale projects for the next 15 years.

“We’re taking care of business with all three buildings,” he said. “We feel when we are complete with this project, we will have taken care of some major facilities needs. ... With interest rates and bonding it out, it just made more sense to get the work done all at one time.”

Mike Kolness
Mike Kolness

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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