Parents of school-age students and other Grand Forks residents had a chance Monday, Feb. 10, to help lay the groundwork for discussion by a facility planning task force that will be assembled to prepare for the upcoming school referendum.\

At a public forum that drew an audience of more than 150 at South Middle School, school district administrators and employees of the SitelogIQ consulting firm outlined the process of community engagement in the lead-up to the referendum asking voters for an increase in the mill levy to support the school district.

SitelogIQ, formerly Unesco, was hired by the Grand Forks School Board to assist with pre-referendum planning.

After a presentation summarizing the fiscal and educational challenges facing the district, audience members were split into small groups and reconvened in nearby classrooms where they had the opportunity to voice viewpoints on the strengths and weaknesses of the school system.

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In each small group, discussion was led by a School Board member or school district administrator. Comments were typed by a school staff member and projected on a screen.

All comments will be collated and made public in the coming weeks, said Superintendent Terry Brenner.

In each group, discussion also focused on what the task force should consider to be priorities of the school district and what opportunities the district should pursue to maintain or enhance educational excellence.

The task force will meet 12 times, with each meeting planned for selected Thursdays, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., from March to September. The meetings will be open to the public.

Applications for membership on the task force also are available on the school district’s website, or at www.tinyurl.com/GFSD-Application.

Applications will be reviewed by staff members of SitelogIQ and task force members will be chosen by SitelogIQ staff on the basis of a rubric designed to ensure the group has broad geographic representation and diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, Brenner said.

“We’re looking at about 40 community members,” said Brian Larson, of SitelogIQ, “and not just parents -- we're also hoping for senior citizens and younger people without kids yet in school.”

Indigenous Peoples Day

In other action, at a regular meeting before the public forum, the School Board heard a presentation from Courtney Souvannasacd, a representative of a local committee with Native American members, calling for the board to consider placing Indigenous Peoples Day on the school calendar.

Several attendees addressed the board on this matter, which was on the agenda for discussion only. The board intends to revisit the issue and take action at its Feb. 24 meeting.