ICON Architects, Donovan Group present Grand Forks School Board with Valley Middle School survey results

·3 min read

Dec. 13—GRAND FORKS — Representatives from Grand Forks-based ICON Architects and the Donovan Group, a Wisconsin-based firm specializing in conducting surveys for school districts, presented the results of a survey measuring voters' preferences regarding upgrades at Valley Middle School on Monday before the Grand Forks School Board meeting.

The survey, completed by 1,200 respondents, shows strong support for entirely rebuilding Valley. Respondents were divided into comparison and non-comparison groups, with the latter encompassing those who have no affiliation with the school district.

When asked whether they would support a $61 million bond referendum — $55 million of which would go toward rebuilding Valley and $6 million for a new central kitchen facility housed at the Mark Sanford Education Center — 73.31% of respondents in the non-comparison group, and 66.09% in the comparison group, said they would "definitely" or "probably" support the initiative.

Perry Hibner, lead survey strategist for the Donovan Group, urged the board to proceed based on the survey respondents' preferences.

"The only recommendation I have is to trust the data," said Hibner. "It's particularly telling that the comparison group supports rebuilding Valley so strongly."

The survey also garnered strong support for $18 million in proposed security upgrades to the district's schools, such as adding secured entrances to buildings that lack them, as well as $7 million in proposed roof repairs. However, board member Bill Palmiscno urged the board to be cautious about the amount of money it requests on the upcoming referendum.

"Rebuilding Valley needs to be our main focus," said Palmiscno. "We should take a step back and examine what this $18 million buys us, and potentially delay some of the upgrades, because $86 million is a lot of money to ask for with this referendum."

With the survey results in hand, ICON and Donovan will proceed to a community planning phase beginning in January, which will draw input from the district's students, parents and faculty, as well as county residents who have no affiliation with the district on how to best proceed with the proposed upgrades to Valley. Following this period, the board will reconvene to draft the referendum's language, with a target date of May 9 for the final vote.

Also Monday, Brenda Lewis, assistant superintendent for elementary education, presented results from the district's high dosage tutoring program. The program, which was implemented to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss, consists of 30-minute sessions three times per week, focusing on reading and math.

According to Lewis, most students are enrolled in the program for eight weeks, with the most effective tutoring taking place during the school day.

"Tutoring conducted during the school day tends to result in greater learning gains than programs conducted after school or over the summer," said Lewis.

In other board news:

* Board members approved two changes to the district's curriculum — reducing the mandatory number of required physical education credits for graduation from 2.0 to 1.5, as well as offering AP physics 1, an algebra-based physics course open to high school juniors and seniors, for the 2023-24 school year.

* Brandon Baumbach, the district's business manager, provided an update on the district's student transportation services. Dietrich bus service, the current provider of student transportation services in consultation with the city of Grand Forks, will provide the district with names of qualified city bus drivers to help alleviate driver shortages within the district. Additionally, the district will open a bidding process to award a two-year student transportation contract, beginning in July 2023 following the expiration of Dietrich's current contract.

* The board approved a third-party request for student information from Jostens Inc., a company that specializes in graduation planning and memorabilia.