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Devils Lake elementary restructuring is first change in long-term facilities review for district

With the restructuring, all first- and second-grade students will attend Sweetwater Elementary School and all third- and fourth-grade students will attend Prairie View Elementary School.

Devils Lake sign .jpg
A sign welcomes guests to Devils Lake, N.D. (Grand Forks Herald)

DEVILS LAKE – The restructuring of elementary schools in Devils Lake for the 2022-23 school year is the first in a series of changes administrators hope to make in the community's public schools. The district also recently compiled results from a community survey, which will be used to guide future long-term plans for facilities in the district.

With the restructuring, all first- and second-grade students will attend Sweetwater Elementary School and all third- and fourth-grade students will attend Prairie View Elementary.

At present, Devils Lake has one public school dedicated to kindergarten, but then students are split between Sweetwater Elementary and Prairie View Elementary, both of which have grades 1-4. All fifth-grade students attend Central Middle School and go on to attend the same high school, meaning elementary school is the only time students of the same grade level are split between two schools.

“We’ve had some struggles sometimes balancing that out completely, where it provides equal demographics or equitable demographics across the board for our schools,” said Matt Bakke, superintendent.

The split often resulted in an imbalance between the two schools in special education students, students participating in the free and reduced lunch program and the number of classes in each grade.

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“If we have all sections in one building, it allows us to balance it out within those class sizes to make it more equitable across the district for our students and for our families,” Bakke said.

The School Board approved the change at its meeting on April 11.

A long-range facility committee, started in August 2021 and consisting of community members and district administrators, proposed the change when looking at grade placement in the district’s buildings. The facilities committee also identified Central Middle School as a priority for future facilities improvements, says Bakke. The building was constructed in 1937 and the committee has discussed if it fits the needs of middle school students in 2022.

“The biggest thing we’re really looking at is what are our needs, what are our wants moving forward and how do we make sure it fits accordingly with what we currently have, or if we need something new?” said Bakke.

The committee organized the recent community survey, which was completed by 996 community members between Feb. 18 and March 18. Along with collecting community opinions about the district, the survey targeted the identified needs for the middle school and gauged support for a referendum to fund a new building through a series of questions.

In the survey, 73% of total respondents said they would be likely or somewhat likely to support a referendum to build a new middle school, and 65% of all respondents indicated they would be very likely or somewhat likely to support building a new middle school with an auditorium. The number of respondents likely to support a referendum dropped to 33% when asked about a new middle school without an auditorium but an added agricultural program to Lake Area Career and Technology Center, and 55% said they would support a new middle school with an auditorium and an agricultural program at Lake Area.

“The data itself looks at the fact that there are things that need to be addressed, and we need to address them now,” Bakke said. “Our communities are in favor of addressing these concerns now, so it’s going to be up to the committee and up to the School Board to really steer the ship as far as where we go from here.”

Related Topics: DEVILS LAKE
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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