Grand Forks Public Schools approved the acquisition of land for its planned career impact academy, a major step toward beginning construction, according to the district’s director of career and technical education.
The decision was made at the School Board’s regular meeting on Monday.
Last week, the city of Grand Forks and Jobs Development Authority (JDA) authorized the transfer of two properties to the district at no cost.
The first parcel — owned by the JDA — is the site of the former Grand Forks Inn & Suites, and is valued at $1,144,400. The second — owned by the city — is an undeveloped property located adjacent to Gateway Drive and North 42nd Street, valued at $591,800.
Eric Ripley, the district’s director of career and technical education (CTE), said the $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds earmarked for the project were allocated on Friday, after a delay of nearly one year.
Securing the allocation of ARPA funds and properties for development has been part of a two-year-long process of site design and fundraising. In addition to the federal funds coming for the project, more than $10 million was raised locally.
“I’ve used the phrase ‘it’s been a marathon, not a sprint,'” Ripley said.
Additionally, the passage of House Bill 1019 — which provides inflationary assistance for the construction of career technical education centers across the state that were slowed by the delay of federal dollars — gave the district an additional $3 million.
Ripley said the Career Impact Academy will benefit the district’s “highly talented students,” citing the fact that the district has produced three presidential scholars in the field of CTE over the past six years. In order to qualify for this honor, according to Ripley, students must rank in the top 20 nationally.
He also said the center will help train students to help fill job openings in the greater Grand Forks region.
The district and Grand Forks-based JLG Architects, hired to design the academy, will now move toward securing construction bids, with hopes of getting foundations in the ground before winter. Construction is expected to take 16-18 months, with a tentative opening slated for spring of 2025.
In other news from the board meeting:
* The board approved the adoption of a new K-12 social studies curriculum. The curriculum, called “TCI,” will be implemented for seven years at a cost of $1,273,301, or $24.73 per student annually. It will be funded through the district’s allocation of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
* The board approved an increase to previously negotiated teacher salaries from 2023-25. All teachers will receive a $4,000 raise in the first year, and $2,500 in the second, with a $1,000 bonus for teachers with 26-40 years of experience. The total cost to the district for the salary increases will be $8.1 million.
* The board approved Business Manager Brandon Baumbach’s request to purchase $725,000 worth of buses and other equipment from Dietrich and Sons Inc. The purchase will be financed through a six-year municipal lease in order to minimize impact on the district’s cash flow, according to Baumbach. In April, the board approved a three-year contract for Fargo-based Valley Bus LLC as the district’s transportation provider.