The Grand Forks School Board will hold a public forum at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, at South Middle School, 1919 47th Ave. S. The focus will be on engaging the community in discussion about the school district’s long-range master facilities plan.
“The biggest thing we want to do is just bring a lot of people up to date,” Bill Palmiscno, School Board president, said Friday. “Right now they’re looking at more than 160 people attending, because the other meetings didn’t go so well. They were lightly attended.”
The five community forums were held last fall at schools around the district.
At Monday’s forum, after a presentation outlining the challenges facing the school district, the audience will be split into groups of 10 to 15 people. Each group will meet in smaller rooms with a School Board member or a district administrator.
“We’ll just sit down and answer some questions they might have,” Palmiscno said. “Try to sell the story, I guess.”
Documents for the public forum can be found at https://www.gfschools.org/Page/8973 . Attendees are encouraged to bring their own device to access the documents online during the forum. A limited number of devices will be available following the forum to complete an exit question.
Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service to allow access or participation at the School Board meeting is asked to notify the superintendent’s office, at 701-787-4880.
For those unable to attend the forum, a recording of the presentation will be available on the school district website after Tuesday, Feb. 11. The survey may be completed online through 4 p.m. Feb. 24.
The audience presentation will include an introduction to the district’s strategic plan and a synopsis of the district’s challenges and opportunities, said Tom Weber, senior business consultant with Unesco, the firm hired by the School Board to provide pre-referendum planning.
It will also address the “importance of the community voice,” Weber said.
Input from the small-group sessions will be used to inform a task force and help to “identify priorities and brainstorm opportunities” for that group to consider, he said at a recent School Board meeting.
The task force will include 30 to 40 residents who will learn about the district’s challenges and provide feedback on possible solutions. Members should have a variety of backgrounds and perspectives on the city’s school system, Weber has told the board. After a series of meetings, the task force is expected to bring its recommendations to the School Board for consideration before the referendum vote takes place.
Monday’s forum marks the school district’s latest attempt to address some pressing financial issues, including a $4.7 million deficit budget and $77 million in deferred maintenance.
Last fall, school district administrators proposed to the School Board that West Elementary School be closed either this spring or a date determined by the board. Administrators cited the school’s relatively low enrollment, the $2.44 million it needs in deferred maintenance, and the anticipated limited growth in enrollment as factors behind the closure recommendation.
At its last meeting, on Jan. 21, the School Board voted unanimously to include West Elementary in the overall facilities study by a task force.
Board members have discussed delaying the referendum, which was scheduled for June. The date has not been determined.