OUR OPINION: Grand Forks' high-school boundary deserves attention
Back in 1967, if a person had proposed building Grand Forks' new Red River High School on farmland far to the south -- say, on the site that now holds Discovery Elementary School -- that person would have been laughed out of town.
Back in 1967, if a person had proposed building Grand Forks' new Red River High School on farmland far to the south - say, on the site that now holds Discovery Elementary School - that person would have been laughed out of town.
And he or she wouldn't have had to go far, given that 17th Avenue South (where Red River wound up) was the southern edge of much of Grand Forks back then.
But while a far-south location for Red River would have been plenty inconvenient for a few generations of students, it sure would be coming in handy now.
That's because Red River's current address puts it smack in the center of Grand Forks today, thanks to the immense amount of development that has happened to the south and west of the school. Meanwhile, Central High School now is in Grand Forks' far northeast.
And that is making the drawing of boundary lines increasingly awkward, complicated and controversial, as a story in Saturday's Herald reaffirmed.
So, maybe it's time for the Grand Forks School District to start fresh. Given the geography and demographics of Grand Forks in 2016 - not 1967 - how could the district be divided to send roughly equal numbers of roughly similar (in demographic terms) students to the two schools?
Grand Forks should have that discussion. And if it does, then the keys to success are these:
▇ First, all possibilities should be considered, including keeping things generally the way they are. Maybe the costs and disruptions of big changes would outweigh the benefits; maybe keeping the status quo is the best the school district can do, given the fact that Grand Forks likely won't be building a new high school anytime soon.
▇ Second, if big changes are adopted, the process should involve generous grandfathering, widespread publicity and a long and drawn-out implementation time.
Judging by Saturday's news story, which told of the district denying 36 in-district transfer requests, local families aren't getting the word about the district's boundary adjustments and transfer policies.
Granted, the district may be spreading that word, through meetings and mailings and the like. But if residents aren't hearing it or are surprised by various outcomes, then district officials should learn from that experience and redouble their efforts to make sure the community knows what's going on.
▇ Third, while the school boundary is important, it's not a crisis. So, the district can and should take the time to get it right.
Grand Forks residents can take tremendous pride in a recent statement from Bismarck: Of the 65 Presidential Scholar candidates announced statewide, nine are from Central and six are from Red River.
In both cases, those are higher numbers than from any other high school in the state, including high schools that are much bigger than those in Grand Forks.
As the state superintendent's office described, "most Presidential Scholar candidates are chosen because of their exceptional scores on the ACT or SAT college entrance exam." The fact that 15 Grand Forks youngsters qualified is very good news, and the fact that both Central and Red River generated high numbers of these top students is terrific as well.
Here at the Herald, our thought has long been to rotate the Central/Red River boundary line from its general east-west orientation to one that runs more north-south. That would mean teens from the eastern half of the city would attend Central, while teens from the western neighborhoods would go to Red River.
But that's just one idea. Are there others? Or is the high-school status quo in Grand Forks, all things considered, OK?
It's a talk worth having, especially given the urgent concern of making sure the high schools host roughly equal numbers of students. We invite Grand Forks residents to weigh in and offer their views.
- Tom Dennis for the Herald