Grand Forks school board wrestles with the decision to close West Elementary

Published: Dec. 9, 2019 at 11:40 PM CST
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Tensions are high in Grand Forks, as the school board wrestles with the decision of whether to close West Elementary School in the north part of town.

Parent after parent stepped forward concerned about the fate of west elementary in grand forks.

"I can’t say enough good things about West,” said one West Elementary parent. “I am very concerned as a north-end parent in the West attendance area about closing West."

"Build our populations instead of adding more to schools that are already full and using relocatables,” another parent said. “There has to be a better solution that simply closing up shop at the end of the school year."

Amanda Walker lives within a couple of blocks of the school, and like many of the parents, she hopes West does not close its doors.

"Any school that's going to close is a complete loss for Grand Forks,” Walker said. “I also think it becomes a burden for the parents even though the schools can absorb the kids."

Parents are worried about the impact it would have on students and staff.

"The older kids that have been with these kids since kindergarten, now they are 4th and 5th grade, and they have to start their lives all over again," Walker said.

The district says it is a difficult decision. They're considering the families at West Elementary while also trying to be fiscally responsible, looking at a low enrollment rate and the facility's condition.

"When we look at the demographer's projections for a pretty flat to nominal neighborhood growth over the next 5 years, that's kind of the reason for the conversation," said Terry Brenner, Grand Forks Superintendent.

"I’ve kind of heard both sides of people that live in the area,” Said Bill Palmiscno, Grand Forks School Board President. “Kids go to the school, love the school, want to stay there, but I also heard from the other side of the community that, how small is too small"

89 students with an additional 41 early childhood special education students, as well as all staff, will all have to be relocated if West closes its doors.

"I'm tired of the bulldozer running,” said one concerned father. “I’m tired of people talking about we need to be more efficient and build new. When you have something as unique as West school or any of the other neighborhood schools, you cherish that and keep it going."

Brenner says they are listening to the community to see how they should move forward.

The final decision for the future of West Elementary has been pushed back to January 21.

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