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Grand Forks Public Schools may look at redistricting part of Viking Elementary's students to Discovery

Discovery Elementary School in Grand Forks, N.D. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

There are no plans to completely redraw Grand Forks Public Schools' boundaries, but leaders may consider sending one small area of the city to a different elementary school to accommodate growth.

The facilities committee is slated to review a request to move some Viking Elementary School students in south Grand Forks to Discovery Elementary School, according to documents from the district. The land proposed to be redistricted into Discovery's boundaries is between 32nd and 40th avenues south and South 20th and Washington streets, according to the documents.

The request to review the amendment to boundaries comes after the board discussed capacity issues at Viking. The district redrew its boundaries in 2015, when Discovery opened.

Parents have wondered why they are under Viking's umbrella when they are closer to other schools such as Discovery and J. Nelson Kelly Elementary School, said board member Amber Flynn. She requested the review for the parents, citing capacity issues at Viking.

"Viking is becoming a little more full," she said. "There is a lot more room in Discovery because it was built like that—to handle more movement and growth along that area of town."

The aforementioned space was kept in the Viking area because the school needed students to keep the building "at or near capacity," but residential growth in south Grand Forks has caused crowding concerns at Viking, according to Jody Thompson, the district's associate superintendent of elementary education.

The district's student body is projected to grow by almost 8 percent by the 2022-23 school year, according to an enrollment analysis report from educational consulting firm RSP Associates of Overland Park, Kan. The district had 7,500 students last year, setting it up to add 600 students in five years, the report stated.

Viking, which had an enrollment estimate of 368 last year, is projected to exceed its capacity of 374 students by the 2021-22 school year if boundaries are not changed, according to numbers based on student attendance, RSP said. It was the only school that had the potential to exceed capacity, the consulting firm's data said.

Discovery, however, has a capacity of 814 students and is just over half full, according to the estimates. It is projected to hit the low 500s by the 2022-23 school year, RSP said.

It's unclear how many residents would be impacted by the possible change, Flynn said.

The facilities committee is responsible for making recommendations on boundaries, but the full School Board would make the final decision. The date for the committee's next meeting had not been set as of Friday.

School administration doesn't have any "imminent plans" to redraw boundary lines, spokeswoman Tracy Jentz said.

"If any changes were to be made in the future, when they would take effect, their parameters, etc., would need to be decided at that time," she wrote in an email.

Flynn said she doesn't anticipate the boundary being redrawn in its entirety in the next year.

The district likely won't completely redraw boundaries until after its master facilities plan is finalized, Flynn said, but she feels the district can have discussions about amending boundaries if the moves will improve school life.

The district has been working on it's facilities plan for more than a year. The School Board plans to assemble a task force, and board members will discuss how to move forward with its master plan this fall.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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