More Kids, Teachers Needed: Grand Forks Schools Says a “Great Problem to Have”

Grand Forks classrooms are about to get more crowded.

How does the district plan to relieve some of the pressure on staff and facilities?

School administrators say increased enrollment is going to cause a few headaches, and they don’t have all the answers yet, but they say they’re giving themselves enough time to find a solution.

More than 7,000 students attend Grand Forks Public Schools.

That number is expected to grow by one to two percent annually, according to a new demographic study.

“We’re continuing to grow over the next several years,” explains Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson.

Those numbers don’t paint the whole picture.

High school enrollment is actually expected to drop, offset by large gains in younger students.

More kids, more problems.

“Clearly we’ll have some issues with facilities,” adds Thompson.

Temporary classrooms are being added at two elementary schools.

And to fill those rooms, the school board approved hiring up to 20 new staff positions.

School board president Doug Carpenter explains, “Half of it will be elementary teachers and special education teachers.”

But all of this just solves the short term issue.

Thompson warns, “Those students have been through the system so now there’s a bubble going into the middle school.”

Right now most of the new students are younger kids, elementary or middle school aged.

But in a few years’ time, all of these kids will be filling Grand Forks’ high schools.

“Some short term solutions certainly are the relocatables,” says Thompson. “Longer term is something that our facilities committee is gonna have to take a look at.”

The next step is a facilities study to see what can be done.

The district isn’t panicking.

Classrooms won’t be critically full for a few years, and overcrowding is actually an issue administrators relish the chance to solve.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Thompson says. “We want to see our enrollment continue to grow. That’s how we get foundation aid from the state. It’s how we continue to grow our programs, so absolutely we don’t consider it a problem at all.”

Schools in North Dakota have been having trouble hiring new teachers, but that hasn’t been the case in Grand Forks.

School board president Doug Carpenter says UND makes it easy to find teachers who want to stay in the community.

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