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Grand Forks Schools could see 8 percent growth over next 5 years

A consultant said Monday Grand Forks Public Schools can expect to add 600 students over the next five years, outpacing previous estimates.

The district is projected to grow by almost 8 percent through the 2022-23 school year, according to an enrollment analysis report presented to the School Board by Robert Schwarz, CEO for educational consulting firm RSP Associates of Overland Park, Kan. The company presented a similar report to the School Board last year, saying the district could expect to add 200 students through the 2021-22 school year.

That would amount to a growth rate of 3 percent, according to last year's report.

The increase in projections likely is due to development in south Grand Forks and an improved economy, Schwarz said.

"Just as you look out here going south, it is amazing how much stuff is being built," he told the Herald as he looked to developments near the Mark Sanford Education Center in south Grand Forks. "The economy, as long as it remains good to strong ... people will continue to move here."

Grand Forks is seeing a turnover, he said. As older residents leave, younger residents—some with families or who want to start families—are making their homes in the area.

The district's enrollment has grown steadily since 2010, when it educated about 6,700, according to the report. The district had almost 7,500 this school year, an eight-year increase of almost 12 percent.

Grand Forks likely will notice its greatest enrollment changes at the high school level, which is projected to grow by almost 15 percent, Schwarz said.

There is a lot of potential for development in Grand Forks, Schwarz said, particularly on the south end of town.

"Enrollment in the southern portion of the district will continue to increase as the new developments are built and younger aged households move there," the report said, though the analysis did note older parts of the city have seen growth in student populations.

There is concern Viking Elementary School will face capacity challenges as the district grows, Schwarz said. The district previously adjusted its boundaries so more students would go to Viking, Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson said.

But now the school is filling up, a problem the district is aware of, Thompson said. The facilities committee could look at readjusting boundary lines to address that issue, he added.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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