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Grand Forks School Board hears cost analysis on proposed infrastructure upgrades

Board members also discuss secondary support systems during Monday's meeting.

Grand Forks Public Schools
Grand Forks Public Schools
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GRAND FORKS – Members of the Grand Forks School Board on Monday heard an update on a cost analysis study for a proposed upgrade to infrastructure improvements throughout the district.

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Kyle Kvamme, director of community engagement and project development with ICON Architectural, presented the firm’s cost analysis study at Monday’s regular board meeting.

Chief among the improvements is a plan to either extensively renovate or rebuild Valley Middle School. Renovating Valley would entail a $51.7 million bond referendum, with an annual tax burden of $67.43 per $100,000 of appraised property value. Rebuilding would result in a $61 million bond referendum, with an annual tax burden of $79.47 per $100,000 of property.

Kvamme explained that the reason ICON’s cost analysis study has been so detailed and time consuming is the desire to craft the most informative survey possible. This will be mailed to all residing in the district’s jurisdiction in the coming months, in preparation for a spring vote.

“We want to be able to answer all of the voters’ inquiries,” said Kvamme. “The survey will also contain a calculator, so that property owners can calculate their exact tax burden, depending on which bond referendum is selected for the ballot.”

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Also during Monday's meeting, Catherine Gillach, an assistant superintendent for Grand Forks Public Schools, outlined the efforts of the district’s secondary student support systems. The program targets primarily ninth-grade students, and provides them tailored aid with academic and social-emotional issues that may be impeding their progress.

“We operate on the assumption that one size does not fit all,” said Gillach. “Each person sitting in this room has a distinct learning style, and we want to replicate this in our school system.

The program oversees two departments that address students’ academic and behavioral needs. Gillach said the two departments will help students whose progress may have been impeded by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of putting all students on track to receive their diploma.

Robin David, coordinator of the district’s mentor center, described the program’s function.

“We started as a response to COVID, serving all middle and high school students,” said Robin. “At its core, the mentor center provides academic support, and enrichment programs such as open gym, where we have two UND student athlete volunteers present for each session. The impact has been positive – overall GPA has increased by 2.08% and 79% of students stated they passed classes they wouldn’t have otherwise without attending the center.”

The center is open from 1-8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and provides free busing to and from its facility.

In other news:

  • Tracey Johnson, coordinator of Grand Forks Head Start, a preschool program assisting low-income families, presented some of the program’s goals. These include maintaining the federal government’s requirement that enrollees stay above its mandated 85% attendance rate, and hiring international instructors under the H1-B visa program to cope with shortages.
  • The board approved a request from the local chapter of Boy Scouts of America to access student records for the purpose of recruitment. Students’ place of birth was removed from the register prior to approval of the request. The board will also review requests from other organizations petitioning this data at its next meeting.
  • ICS of Grand Forks was selected to provide infrastructure improvements to schools, including air conditioning, as well as safety and security upgrades. A total of $13.8 million has been secured to fund these upgrades. The board’s report will be sent to the state’s department of public instruction for further feedback.
  • Public commenters took to the podium at Monday’s meeting to voice their frustration at potential state policies that they say will lead to persecution of transgender students. “Transgender and LGBTQ individuals are the number one targeted group by bullies,” said Sarah Galbraith. “Youth need to be given the ability to figure out their own selves and path.
Related Topics: GRAND FORKS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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