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GRAND FORKS SCHOOLS: Proposal goes to public hearing

The Grand Forks School Board on Monday received preliminary recommendations to keep two underutilized north end elementary schools open and build a new south- end school.

The Grand Forks School Board on Monday received preliminary recommendations to keep two underutilized north end elementary schools open and build a new south- end school.

Discussion centered on clarification about the recommendations presented by the school district's Demographic Task Force, charged with addressing imbalances in enrollment capacities in district schools.

'Big input'

The next step in the process of deciding the future of city's schools will occur during the public forum Jan. 23.

"The forum is an important part of this process and will be a big input to our decision," said Board President Roger Pohlman. "These are exciting times."

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The task force recommended:

- Building a new elementary school on the city's far south end, where growth has led to some schools, such as Century, Kelley and Viking, to approach full capacity.

- Closing no elementary schools, though Wilder and Winship, which had been on the list for closure, have fewer students than average.

- Adjusting boundaries for elementary, middle and high schools to alleviate enrollment pressures and bring more students into underutilized schools.

- Allowing students to attend the same school as older siblings and to finish at their current schools, even if borders change.

- Allowing in-district transfers as long as there remains capacity at the accepting schools.

- Further evaluate Community High School, over the next two years, to achieve educational equity and efficiency.

The board heard from a dozen parents and others who spoke in support of maintaining the city's elementary schools.

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"The city, state and school district have a long history of working on behalf of children in Grand Forks," said City Council president Hal Gershman, citing collaborations that have resulted in improvements to Central High School and preservation of north-side homes after the Flood of 1997.

The near $1.5 million investment by the city and the Community and Knight foundations have led to revitalization of the north side, he said. "Closure of a school on the north end of Grand Forks would hurt property values and the wonderful work that's been done there."

The school district is required by state law, every other year, to host a public forum for the purpose of looking at community demographics as they affect school enrollments and planning.

Reach Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send e-mail to pknudson@gfherald.com .

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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