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Grand Forks School Board commits another $500,000 to Career Impact Academy

Additional funds increases the district's contribution to the proposed career and technical education center to $1.5 million

Mark Sanford Center Grand Forks schools logo sign tower.jpg
The Mark Sanford Education Center, headquarters of Grand Forks Public Schools. (Grand Forks Herald photo)
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The Grand Forks School Board voted unanimously to commit another $500,000, in addition to the $1 million it already has committed, to the proposed career and technical education center.

The School Board’s increased financial commitment, which was approved during its regular meeting Monday, Nov. 8, brings the project closer to the $10 million in matching funds needed to secure $10 million from the state’s Department of Commerce for the Career Impact Academy.

The request for additional funding, which came from the CTE steering committee, was reviewed and approved recently by the board’s Finance Committee, according to Doug Carpenter, who heads that committee.

The additional funds will come from federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief monies, said Scott Berge, business manager for the school district.

“If we didn’t have the ESSER funds, there’s no way we’d have the money to do this,” Carpenter said.

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Updating the board on the progress of the project, Keith Lund, president and CEO of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., said $7 million has been raised for the project, which will provide career education and training for students in Grand Forks and seven rural school districts, as well as adults seeking specialized job training for in-demand careers.

The committee has $6.5 million in firm “pledges in hand” and $460,000 in verbal commitments, Lund said. Financial commitments have been made by three political subdivisions (the city, county and Grand Forks School Board), two civic organizations (the Grand Forks EDC and the Chamber of Commerce), two individuals and 36 companies, he said.

The group is awaiting word on 35 active requests that have been made. In the next 10 days or so meetings are planned with 24 more companies which, collectively, will be asked for $810,000.

The city, through its Jobs Development Authority, has agreed to commit $1.7 million, the value of the land near the intersection of Gateway Drive and I-29 where the CIA is proposed to be built, and will purchase and raze the Grand Forks Inn and Suites building, formerly the Holiday Inn, on that site.

Lund estimated that by the time they conclude their efforts, he and others involved in fundraising “will have sat across the table from 125 different organizations” in their mission to explain the benefits of the CIA.

The grant application for $10 million is due to the state by Dec. 1.

Eric Ripley, executive director of career and technical education and technology for Grand Forks Public Schools, discussed a budget summary that outlined how the proposed 60,000-square-foot CIA will be sustained after it’s been built.

The CIA would basically “absorb” the school district’s Virtual Area Center, which provides career and technical education to students in Grand Forks and outlying school districts, and its budget, Ripley said. The area center’s faculty would become part of the CIA, with some additional staff hired to meet new educational programming demands, such as in culinary arts and advanced manufacturing.

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The state reimburses CTE centers at a rate of 50% of costs, Ripley said, and encourages continued collaboration with industry partners, the EDC and postsecondary institutions. Revenue would also be generated through rental, corporate sponsorships and revenue from postsecondary institutions, he said.

The CIA would be in partnership with UND, Lake Region State College and Northland Community and Technical College.

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 pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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