Grand Forks School Board hears details on referendum election, consolidated school, districtwide infrastructure projects

The Alerus Center will be the site of the June 22 special election. Absentee ballots may be requested from the Grand Forks County Auditor's Office beginning Wednesday, May 12

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A conceptual diagram highlighting possible design of a new K-8 school in Grand Forks, as noted in a handout from the May 10, 2021, meeting of the Grand Forks School Board. (Credit: Grand Forks Public Schools)

The Grand Forks School Board on Monday, May 10, heard specifics on how the proposed K-8 campus in north Grand Forks would look and function, as well as details about infrastructure projects that would be funded by the bond referendum, if it passes.

The board also approved the Alerus Center as the location for the June 22 special election.

Eligible voters may request absentee ballots for the referendum from the Grand Forks County Auditor's Office beginning Wednesday, May 12, Scott Berge, business manager for Grand Forks Public Schools, told the board. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by June 21.


Information regarding voting on the referendum will be available on the school district’s website, Berge said.

The district is working on a plan to provide voters with free transportation to the polling site, he said.

Members of the Bond Program Planning Group outlined the $15.5 million in “immediate priority” school projects that would be carried out with funds generated from the bond issuance, if the referendum is successful.

The projects are slated for Red River and Central high schools; Schroeder and South middle schools; and Ben Franklin, Century, Kelly, Lake Agassiz, Lewis and Clark, Phoenix and Viking elementary schools. The most costly of these projects are earmarked for Central High School, at $6.1 million, followed by Red River High School, at $3.43 million.

The Bond Program Planning Group’s members are Doug Carpenter, representing the School Board; and school district administrators Chris Arnold, director of buildings and grounds; and Scott Berge, business manager; and Sara Guyette and Craig Stranathan, employees of SitelogIQ, a consulting firm hired by the district.

The $15.5 million is part of the $86 million bond referendum. Of the remainder, about $64 million would be allocated for the proposed K-8 campus and about $6.5 million for a new central kitchen for the district, which would be built at the Mark Sanford Education Center. Currently, the kitchen is part of Valley Middle School.

In the June 22 election, voters also will decide on the question of increasing the district’s building fund levy by 10 mills.

Northside K-8 consolidated school

Several members of the K-8 Campus Predesign Committee on Monday provided a summary of general concepts for the new campus to be used as a framework, or starting point, by the architectural firm that is eventually hired to design the school, if the referendum passes.


The committee, which has met five times since early April, proposed plans calling for separate schools with shared and centralized program spaces, such as administration and special education offices, and support spaces, such as the kitchen, facility support and other units to maximize space efficiencies.

The school would have separate entrances for elementary, middle school and pre-K special education students. Enrollment is estimated at 950 -- 420 elementary students and 530 middle school students.

The K-8 school would consolidate West, Wilder and Winship elementary schools and Valley Middle School. The new structure would be built on the site where Valley Middle School stands, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues North, west of 20th Street.

Also, on Monday, the School Board convened an executive session, closed to the public, to discuss the negotiating strategy with its legal counsel regarding the contact with SitelogIQ, the firm hired more than a year ago to provide pre-referendum services.

In recent months the firm’s staff members have been instrumental in the work of two school district committees, the K-8 Campus Predesign Committee and the Bond Program Planning Group. SitelogIQ staff members also facilitated the district’s Facilities Task Force that, in 23 meetings over nine months, studied the financial and facilities challenges facing the district and delivered its recommendations to the School Board in December.

Legislative update

In an update on actions by the 2021 state Legislature, Berge said the district will see a 1% increase in the per-pupil payment from the state in each of the next two school years. Seventy percent of the new monies must be used for salaries for non-administrative positions, Berge noted.

A process for schools to apply for ESSER II (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds has been finalized, paving the way for districts to recoup expenses incurred in response to the pandemic, Berge said. Applications are due June 1 for the funds, which are part of the federal CARES Act.

Berge estimates that Grand Forks Public Schools will apply for $1.5 million in this round of funding to cover projects, including boiler work at Phoenix Elementary and South Middle School and window replacement at Ben Franklin Elementary School, completed last year.


The process to apply for funds through an ESSER III package has not yet been clarified, he said.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved the appointment of Wendy Mankie as director of child nutrition at a salary of $92,799. Mankie, who was among seven external candidates who were interviewed for the post, is clinical nutrition manager with Sodexo at Altru Health System, a role she’s held since 2013. Mankie, who will take over for Emily Karel in June, has previous experience as a clinical dietitian supervisor and as a director of nutrition education for a child and adult care food program.

  • Approved the appointment of Loren Hoheisel as the next principal of Lewis and Clark Elementary School, at a salary of $106,303, effective July 1. He has served as associate principal at Discovery Elementary School for the past two years and, prior to that, served as building resource officer at Discovery. Hoheisel, who has a background in special education, takes over for Kelli Tannahill, who has been appointed principal of J. Nelson Kelly Elementary School. Hoheisel’s salary as principal may be adjusted based on the results of contract negotiations underway between the School Board and the Grand Forks Principals Association.

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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