On Tuesday, June 22, Grand Forks voters will go to the polls to make a decision about building a new K-8 school on the city’s north end that will lead to consolidation of existing schools, as well as a mill levy increase to raise funds for improvement projects throughout the district.

The two-part proposal calls for:

● Approval of an $86 million bond issue resulting in the closure of Wilder and Winship elementary schools on the north side and building a new K-8 facility that would replace those schools and Valley Middle School and provide funds for infrastructure improvements in schools throughout the district; and

● Gaining voter approval of a 10-mill increase in property taxes, which school leaders say would mean a tax impact of roughly $3.75 increase per month for every $100,000 of home value. The funds raised would be used for improvements at school facilities throughout the district.

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Voting

The election will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, at the Alerus Center, 1200 S. 42nd St.

A 60% majority is required for each question to pass.

Bus and paratransit ("Dial-A-Ride") rides to the Alerus Center will be free during the election timeframe.

Specifically, the ballot asks voters to answer two questions:

Question 1: Shall Grand Forks Public School District No. 1 of Grand Forks County, North Dakota, issue its general obligation bonds in the amount not to exceed $86,000,000 maturing within a maximum of 20 years, resulting in an estimated additional millage of 21.95 mills, equal to $21.95 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation for the first taxable year, for the purpose of providing funds, together with any other funds available, to construct and equip a new K-8 school building; to demolish school buildings; to renovate, remodel and improve school buildings; and to otherwise improve and renovate school property.

Question 2: Shall the school building fund levy of Grand Forks Public School District No. 1 of Grand Forks County, North Dakota, be increased from 10 mills to 20 mills as permitted by Section 57-15-16 of the North Dakota Century Code.

How do you intend to vote for the school referendum?

Thank you for voting!

  • I will vote yes for both a new K-8 school and mill levy increase

    36%

  • I will vote no for both a new K-8 school and yes mill levy increase

    28%

  • I will vote no for both

    36%

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A June 9, 2021, photo at Winship Elementary School in Grand Forks. (Grand Forks Herald photo)
A June 9, 2021, photo at Winship Elementary School in Grand Forks. (Grand Forks Herald photo)

Proponents

Proponents say a “vote yes” means investment in education in the city. Superintendent Terry Brenner told the Herald editorial board that a yes vote “really illustrates that there’s support for the entire school district.”

Within the $86 million bond issue, “there is something for every campus, whether that’s safety and security, reconfiguring our front doors and office designs, moving offices to create safer sightlines to allow people in or not allow people in,” Brenner said.

“Classrooms really ought to have more than two outlets for the technological world we live in and our learning environments need spaces where our students can create and critically think and collaborate,” he said, noting the need for flexible spaces, unlike the traditional classroom, “that can be repurposed for anything from extra- to co-curriculars to academics – that just provides more opportunities.”

The Herald Editorial Board also sat down with the “vote yes” contingent. Read that question and answer session here.

Wilder Elementary School, at 1009 N. Third Street, Grand Forks. (Grand Forks Herald photo)
Wilder Elementary School, at 1009 N. Third Street, Grand Forks. (Grand Forks Herald photo)

Opponents

Opponents say the decision to create a K-8 campus was rushed and included little public input.

Three Grand Forks residents who are against building a new consolidated school, and thereby closing two older schools, claim the decision to move forward with a communitywide vote was a hasty decision based on questionable information and without enough community input.

Justin Berry, Mark Rustad and Scott Lindgren say they will vote against the new school proposal when Grand Forks Public Schools voters go to the polls.

“Our position is that we want a good, solid education system in Grand Forks. We’re not just naysayers but we demand a better plan,” said Lindgren. “This seems to be a little rushed or pushed.”

The Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board sat down with the “vote no” contingent. Read that question and answer session here.