Grand Forks School Board receives update on progress on proposed CTE center

Work on the Career Impact Academy is progressing at "warp speed," said Superintendent Terry Brenner

The Grand Forks School Board heard more details Monday, Sept. 13, on progress being made — especially related to programming, fundraising and access issues — by a steering committee working to develop a career and technical education center, titled the Career Impact Academy.

The center is planned for the former Holiday Inn property near the intersection of Gateway Drive and I-29. The JLG Architects firm has been selected to create the design plans for the facility.

A steering committee is overseeing the grant that will seek up to $10 million from the state for the center; the grant must include matching funds from private and public sources.

The committee plans to complete the application — which must be submitted by the School Board — by Dec. 1 to qualify for the second round of funding from the $70 million the Legislature has committed for projects of this type around the state.

The Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation is being asked to commit $250,000, said Becca Cruger, workforce development manager for the EDC. The School Board’s commitment would be $1 million and the request of the Grand Forks County Commission will be for $1.5 million.

The city has agreed to buy the hotel facility and have it demolished, Cruger said. That investment would total a little more than $1 million, not including the land, she said.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve the sale of the West Elementary School property to Oxford Realty and its partner, Premiere Homes and Builders, for $150,000. The district had received one other proposal, from Dakota Commercial, for $125,000.

The Oxford proposal calls for razing the school building by the end of 2021 and developing the land into 10 single-family homes.

Ryan Brooks, city planner, told the board Monday that if the new owner wanted to build anything other than single-family homes, it would require rezoning, which would require a meeting to gather input from neighbors who live within at least 300 feet around the property.

During a period in the board meeting dedicated to citizen comments, board members also heard from eight residents who are opposed to the school mask mandate and want the board to reverse its decision that requires everyone to wear masks inside school buildings, except during breakfast and lunch times.

Superintendent Terry Brenner said staff members have been doing a great job of reminding students about the proper way to wear masks and maintaining a three-foot bubble of space around a student where possible.

School principals maintain seating charts for meal-time seating in case information on close contacts of an infected person is required.

The district will reconsider the mask mandate when the Grand Forks County risk rate is in green for 10 consecutive days, the CDC transmission is in the low to moderate level, and the vaccination rate reaches herd immunity status. Meeting those benchmarks may allow a faster shift to recommended rather than required masking.

Brenner reported that 26 K-12 students and 13 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19; there are 207 close contacts and quarantine has been recommended for 47 people.

The board also heard a report on summer school for elementary students, which was shifted to Aug. 2-20 and had an increase of 218 students compared to last year. The district had to close some classrooms in a couple of schools due to close contacts.

The board heard reports on summer school for secondary students, drivers education, and the Summer Performing Arts program. The SPA program saw a dip in registrations, to 878 students, compared to 2019, but that was expected, said Allison Peterson, director. The SPA program was not conducted in 2020.

About 9,000 audience members came to see 30 performances by students in pre-K through 12th grades. High school performances were sold out at the 50% capacity that was allowed under COVID restrictions.

In other action, the board

  • Received an update on the district’s plans to inform voters about the rationale behind the request to increase the building fund levy from 10 to 20 mills. The election is set for Sept. 28 at the Alerus Center. Absentee ballots are available at the Mark Sanford Education Center.
  • Approved the sale of the building trades project home, which is not completed but should be finished by the end of the school year; the district plans to sell the home, at 3127 44th Ave. S., in the spring.