Lack of Space is Creating Difficult Challenges
 
Cohasset Elementary then and nowOver the past several years, you have been hearing about the space needs of ISD 318 elementary schools in Grand Rapids and Cohasset. The difficulty we face is a good problem to have – enrollment in elementary grades has been increasing, and when added to our all-day kindergarten and early childhood students, we have an explosion of young learners ready to be educated.

But more students mean we need more classrooms, more workspaces, and even more desks. The four elementary schools in Grand Rapids and Cohasset simply don’t have enough classrooms and other necessary support space available to handle our current student enrollment – they are already holding student meetings in library aisles and under staircases because all other spaces are in use.  

What have we done to get by?  The district has moved the 5th graders to RJE Middle School.  We have added portable classrooms to Forest Lake Elementary, Southwest Elementary, and now Murphy Elementary.  We change our elementary school boundaries and uproot and move students to balance available space.  We hold early childhood education programs at our Administration building, at the college, and at the Itasca Resource Center; wherever we could find available spaces to lease instead of at school buildings where they belong.

Kids working under countersFortunately, Grand Rapids High School, Robert Elkington Middle School and the Bigfork Schools are in pretty good shape.  However, we have these types of challenges at all four elementary schools.  In many school districts, the solution to this space problem would be to build additions onto their elementary schools.  However, in Grand Rapids and Cohasset, our schools are on properties that have too little acreage to meet modern state standards along with significant capital needs for things like roofing and new boiler systems.  Also, building permanent additions while protecting playground space and safe traffic patterns would require purchasing land on which homes are located.  

That’s an expensive option – we would be spending both tax dollars and community goodwill to buy those properties.  In addition, it is an unwise use of tax dollars to add on to facility space that is 70+ years old.

Southwest student assembly crowdsThe School Board proposed a referendum to fund two modern elementary schools to replace our aging, small elementary schools in Grand Rapids and Cohasset.  That referendum did not pass, but the Board has not stopped looking for a plan that voters will support.  This fall, ISD 318 will reach out to residents to receive input on options for addressing our elementary school space problems.  I hope you will get involved.  

As always, if you have questions about our work on the facilities plan, please share your feedback. Email us at facilityplan@isd318.org or call 218-327-5723.

You can also submit your comments here on our website using the online feedback form.