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How One District May Bolster STEM with Defense Department Funds

Education in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — will get a major boost from the $500,000 grant recently received by the Grand Forks, N.D., School District from the U.S. Department of Defense.

by Pamela D. Knudson, Grand Forks Herald / November 24, 2020
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(TNS) — Education in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — will get a major boost from the $500,000 grant recently received by the Grand Forks School District from the U.S. Department of Defense, according to local school administrators.

Details on how the grant funds will be allocated were outlined at a joint meeting of the Grand Forks School Board and the Grand Forks Air Force Base School Board on Monday, Nov. 23. It is the first grant of its kind to be awarded in North Dakota, district administrators said.

Funds will be used to "encourage students to think like scientists," said  Shari Bilden , principal at Nathan Twining Elementary and Middle School. Bilden, along with  Elizabeth Berger , instructional coach at Twining, and  Taunya Schleicher , school district grant writer, prepared the successful grant application.

Much of the investment will be aimed at stimulating student interest and excitement in the sciences — promoting exploration in fields such as aerospace, medicine and agriculture — among students over the next five years.

The grant will give students "experience in these fields that they may not get anywhere else," Berger said.

Funds will be used for a wide variety of items, including the purchase of 3D printers and robotics equipment, other classroom technology, STEM lab equipment, professional development and after-school STEM clubs for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The main goal is to get students "college- and career-ready," Schleicher said.

In other action, board members heard a report from  Scott Berge , business manager for the school district, indicating that Grand Forks' mill levy, at 101 mills, is the lowest of the state's five largest school districts. Other district mill levies are: Fargo, 154.38; West Fargo, 137.26; Minot, 111.34; and Bismarck, 107.19.

The amount of revenue per mill each school district receives is varied, Berge pointed out, noting that Grand Forks County nets $250 million, whereas in Burleigh County — which includes the Bismarck School District — it totals $480 million. Other communities have added mills, largely, to fund the construction of new schools, he said.

Board members also heard an enrollment report noting that enrollment in Grand Forks public schools increased from 7,338 in September 2019 to 7,459 in September 2020, or an increase of 121 students,  Jody Thompson , associate superintendent of elementary education, reported.

At Grand Forks Air Force Base, student enrollment in Nathan Twining Elementary and Middle School totals 278, with 203 at the elementary level and 75 at the middle school level.

Sixty-four students from the base attend high school in the city of Grand Forks — 62 at Grand Forks Central, one at Community and one at Red River, Thompson said.

Compared to October 2019, Air Force Base enrollment of Air Force Base has decreased by 23 students.

(c)2020 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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