by Grand Forks Herald
December 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm in Grand Forks Herald
District and task force study ways to best use space on north and south end.
Options include re-drawing school boundaries, closing or repurposing schools and building new schools.
Tags: GF and EGF, grand forks school board, grand forks school district, Schools, updates 17 Comments »
It’s interesting that the superintendent stresses the decline in enrollment and that the number of facilities has remained the same…but at the Wilder PTO meeting 2 weeks ago Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson publicly stated that we need to build a new school on the south end within the next couple of years… North end student populations are also not “stagnating”, census reports show that the number of preschool children are actually increasing, not decreasing, on the north end.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 27 2
Dr. Larry N. neglects to include the numbers behind the numbers as to the reason of the lower than average enrollment at Wilder. Only 46% of students in the Wilder boundaries actually attend Wilder. The district employs a no questions asked policy relating to transfers. This IS the primary reason to low enrollment numbers at Wilder Elementary.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 27 3
I have friends in Moorhead who are also asking themselves “What is the right size to learn?. Under Dr. Nydbladh leadership, Moorhead closed 3 neighborhood elementary schools and built an 800 student mega-elementary school for grades K-5. Many parents in Moorhead are not satisfied with this concept of efficiency as their children are only numbers. In Moorhead, Nydbladh employed the same consulting group (Worner Group, made up of retired superintendents) which recommended the closure of Wilder and West Elementary schools. The Worner report reminds me a lot of the out of state consultant who stated that rebuilding Riverside Pool would be the biggest mistake imaginable. These consultants were wrong, as pool usage numbers have doubled. The Worner group is also wrong, and unfortunately, they did not take the time to understand our community before making their recommendations.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 32 4
One thing that is really bothersome about this, is that the justification for closing the school is that development on the North end has been stagnating. Shutting down central institutions like schools doesn’t combat stagnation, it actively reinforces is.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 30 1
Starting in 2009, the Knight Foundation has invested $1,000,000 in the Near Northside Neighborhood with the goals of increasing property values as well as the percentage of home ownership. The Mayor’s office (through the Mayor’s Urban Neighborhood Initiative) is also focusing on the Near Northside Neighborhood, with financial partners offering families in this neighborhood low interest home rehab loans. The school district could be an important partner for these efforts and could do a lot to help increase student population at Wilder Elementary. Closing Wilder would be both detrimental to these neighborhoods AND to the investments being made by others.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 27 0
I am alarmed that the superintendent would mislead the public in such an egregious way. As others have already stated, the 2010 census clearly shows that not only is the population of the Near North and Riverside growing, but also that Wilder may exceed capacity within 5 years. More troubling than his omission of this data, however, is his omission of any explanation as to why Wilder’s student enrollment is currently the lowest in town. Instead of closing a much needed school, perhaps he should focus on why the district has allowed nearly 50% of Wilder’s potential student population to transfer elsewhere.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 29 3
He also omits the fact that Wilder elementary has 49 head start students (they are not included in the student count). Head Start is a district program funded by the federal government. Last year the school district obtained approximately $6700 in federal funding for each head start student. Multiplying $6700 by the 49 Wilder Head Start students equals $328,000 of federal funding. Wow! That sounds like a pretty efficient use of space to me and its great that the district is placing Head Start classrooms in different parts of the community. When you include Head Start students, Wilder may actually be subsidizing other aspects of the district and not the other way around.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 24 2
Piggybacking on Riverside Resident’s post, the emphasis being thrown on southern development is disturbing and unsustainable. By planting doubts about northern neighborhoods and schools, stressing need to build a school on the south end when Wilder already exists, and by locating the Mark Sanford Education Center in the south and holding all meetings there, the Board seems to be pushing for southern development while abandoning and ignoring existing need. If declining enrollment claims are true, then why all the new construction? If the claims are false, why the duplicity? It would seem that the Board is in cahoots with the developers.
The same thing happened with the library project. When the people spoke out loud and clear that they wanted the library centralized at the Leavers site, instead of way south by the new wellness center, suddenly support for a new building dried up and it will stay where it is. It seems that anything that goes against development in the south is immediately quashed.
Like or Dislike: 15 4
Stagnates? Census and population indicators depict the opposite of this. Blanket statements like this that include ‘stagnate’ are especially harmful when not true. Language like this should only be used after facts have been verified.
The base restructuring has had the single biggest impact in decreased enrollment for the Grand Forks school district. Approximately 36-39% of the decrease in district enrollment can be directly attributed to the personnel loss at the base. The base seems to be an entity unto itself, yet its reduced numbers play a disproportionally large role in deciding how to best operate our educational infrastructure within the city limits of Grand Forks.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 19 2
Although I do not have a significant stake in what solution is ultimately determined, I am encouraged that the Superintendant is at least evaluating the issue rather than simply reaching for the default solution offered to virtually every education problem; give us more money. On its face it seems reasonable to continue to use the assets that already exist (Wilder), enforce existing school boundaries or reconfigure the boundaries to utilize the existing assets.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 21 0
After attending the past two Demographic Task Force meetings as a public observer and witnessing first-hand the process that is taking place, I have to say that I am concerned about the way in which information is being presented to this group. Although the task force has been instructed to keep an open mind and consider a variety of scenarios to “increase efficiency,” the idea of closing Wilder Elementary has been raised several times; often presented as the first of a series of options. It is true that Wilder’s population has declined and that it is the smallest school. In the mountains of data and charts the task force has received, it appears a “logical” candidate for closure. However, it also represents a statistical outlier in the data as it is 1) the only school missing a grade (due to the decision to cancel the 2007-08 kindergarten class; 2) the smallest physical school with only 8 classrooms; and 3) the school with the highest rate of out-migration (due to transfers) in the district. A good researcher knows the importance of investigating the reasons for an outlier in a data set. The task force is being presented with numbers as if the circumstances in all schools are equal, when they clearly are not. As a mother of young children, it brings to mind the famous song from Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the other…” Clearly, the data regarding Wilder Elementary is that which doesn’t belong. The task force needs to recognize and investigate the reasons for this, as Wilder clearly DOES belong in our neighborhood and community.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 22 2
From the Grand Forks School District’s Strategic Plan:
Priority Area 1: Address student enrollment demographic issues
Goal 1: Develop a comprehensive demographic and geographic database for use in district-level decision making.
Timeline for attainment of this goal was November 1st, 2011.
Unfortunately, that goal was not attained before November 1st and has not yet been attained. Census data and birth records have not yet been integrated into the data currently being used by the demographic task force. Since it’s taken a lot longer to integrate all data into the “comprehensive demographic database”, I’m concerned that there will still be a push from administration for the task force to make some hasty decisions (Decision timeline has not been extended) without having a chance to be presented with ALL of the facts.
Like or Dislike: 12 1
Some members of the GF School Board are educators. Educators know that argument in favor of small, neighborhood schools is not just touchy-feely emotional fluff. The value is real. Teachers know that smaller simply works better for making impact with children, better for learning. We know the small neighborhood school model is not a possibility for all areas. We also know that there’s not only one “right” way for a school or a district to look.
Close a school to build a school. Sounds like a huge expense in infrastructure, taxes, etc. Efficient, sound financial strategy?
The north end of Grand Forks is not stagnant; quite the opposite is true. Many areas of north Grand Forks are thriving, experiencing exciting growth and change, with increasing numbers of young families and children, due in part to city initiatives and community grants. Not to mention, the pool, the park, the rinks, etc. The population is growing, along with a strong sense of community.
Let’s support the growth in our town, for the north end, for the south end, and for everyone in the district. As parents, we all want the same thing. We all want what’s best for our children. It’s not schools that this district is lacking. We HAVE schools. Let’s do what we need to do to support them.
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 22 1
I believe keeping neighborhood schools will preserve the sense of community that exist today. Cherry picking smaller schools will a large implication on the success of surrounding communities and businesses.
Like or Dislike: 14 1
Perhaps they could relieve some of the stress at Kelly & Century (Ben Franklin, Viking, etc, any seeing an increase) if they would send all the kids back to their “home” schools – ELL included. While they no longer accept open enrollment, there are kids at the schools that were allowed to open enroll, if all kids went to their “neighborhood” schools I bet the numbers would change drastically and there would be no need for an additional school.
@Riverside Resident: There has been plenty of rumor thrown around the south end schools of the school board “loading” the south end schools in order to create that mega-school you mention…not many happy about it.
Everyone needs to attend the public forum January 23rd and keep having your voices heard.
Like or Dislike: 11 0
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