Proposed Career Impact Center in ‘holding pattern,’ experts tell Grand Forks School Board

It's scheduled to be built on the site of the former Holiday Inn between 42nd and 43rd Streets, south of the Convention and Visitors Center near Highway 2.

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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GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks School District is ready to move forward on the Career Impact Academy, but is in a holding pattern as it waits for the federal government to release funds for the project, Brandon Baumbach, the district’s business manager, told School Board members Monday, Sept. 12.

“We’re ready to go on the project,” Baumbach said, but “we can’t quite go yet. We’re still waiting on the U.S. Treasury (Department) to give us the final go-ahead.”

Board members saw the initial building design concept and floor plan for the 52,000-square-feet, two-story structure. It's scheduled to be built on the site of the former Holiday Inn between 42nd and 43rd Streets, south of the Convention and Visitors Center near Highway 2.

“We’re really in a holding pattern,” said Eric Ripley, executive director of career and technical education and technology for the school district. “The longer we wait the more the building will cost.”

“The state recognizes the challenges,” Baumbach said, noting that the North Dakota Workforce Council voted last week to ask that the $88 million expected from the federal government for 12 projects of this type statewide, be put into the governor’s budget. When the federal monies come through, they could be used for something else, Ripley said.


Referendum process update

Kyle Kvamme and Tom Wesley of ICON Architectural Group gave board members an update on their work in preparation for the referendum for a new Valley Middle School, which is on track to be held next spring.

The ICON employees have completed a review of all school buildings as part of their plan to give a comprehensive facility needs report to the board early next year.

They summarized responses to a survey of parents and staff in the areas of capital maintenance, code compliance and educational adequacy. Common themes emerged in areas such as improved secure entrances; air quality, heating and cooling – some of which will be addressed in summer 2023; the need for specialized learning spaces; improved accessibility; and lack of classroom space.

The ICON project leaders, and their partners in other firms, are in the process of determining costs associated with the necessary improvements, based on their findings. They are also drafting a survey to assess public opinion, which is expected to go live in early November. A review of the survey results is planned for early December. In January, a community-led design process, using survey results and assessment data, will begin.

Parent notification regarding transgender students

The board also received an update from Superintendent Terry Brenner on a privacy and confidentiality component of a parent notification process concerning students who inform school counselors that they are transgender.

The process has been misinterpreted by some parents, so clarifying language has been included, after a review by legal counsel, Brenner said.

Generally, when a student discloses this information to a counselor the first question the counselor asks is, have you shared this with your parent? Brenner said. “Once in a while, the student does not feel safe” sharing this with the parent, he said.

The information will be given to the parent if the student is under 18 years of age. But if the student articulates that such disclosure could result in child abuse, neglect or other illegal conduct, it will not be shared.


The latter action “seems paradoxical,” Brenner said. “We try to be transparent with parents; we inform parents of everything.”

An attorney advised school district administrators that the process “will stand until the next court case,” he said, because so far “this hasn’t risen to the Supreme Court,” but decisions have only been made by lower courts.

“This will be fluid,” Brenner said, and the topic may be brought to the board again in the future.

Additional pay for paras

The board voted unanimously to approve a Critical Shortage Adjustment plan, presented by Baumbach, whereby para-educators will receive an additional $1 per hour in salary. The increase, which will be capped at $500 per employee per semester, will be retroactive to the start of this school year and be paid out in December and May.

The district is facing a severe shortage in paraeducators.

“We are 90 paraeducators down from where we would like to be,” Baumbach said.

The plan recognizes the increased work demands on paraeducators, due to this shortage in personnel.

New paraeducators will also be eligible for these bonuses.


It will cost the district between $146,0000 and $186,000 per semester, Baumbach told the board.

In other action, the board approved the hiring of a new human resources director, Griffin Gillespie. He was one of three candidates interviewed for the position. The Park River (North Dakota) High School graduate has most recently been employed as the human resources director at the University of Minnesota Crookston and has previous work experience as supervisor of recruitment at Altru Health System.

Gillespie holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in business administration from UND. He begins in his new role Oct. 10 at an annual salary of $107,727, which will be prorated because he did not start July 1, Brenner said. He replaces Linsey Stadstad, whose last day at GFPS is Sept. 23.

Virginia Tech (7-1) was a 12-point favorite over Minnesota (4-3) and rolled to an easy victory.

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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