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Published October 14, 2011, 04:43 PM

UPDATE: Parents Concerned With Overcrowding at GF School Circulate Petition

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Parents concerned with overcrowded classrooms at Century Elementary School in Grand Forks are divided over how to handle the issue. A petition has been emailed to parents asking the Grand Forks Public Schools School Board to reassess the ELL program at the school.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Parents concerned with overcrowded classrooms at Century Elementary School in Grand Forks are divided over how to handle the issue.

A petition has been emailed to parents asking the Grand Forks Public Schools School Board to reassess the ELL program at the school.

This petition went out to about 400 email addresses of parents with children at the school. Some parents hope the petition brings about more discussion on the overcrowding issue, while others say it wasn't the right way to handle the situation.

Century Elementary is currently the magnet school for English Language Learners. The ELL program is for students from other countries who know little to no English.

"It would be great if some of the program could stay, but that we just have a cap. You know, any one school can only handle so many," parent Susan Spivey, who is in favor of the petition, said.

The petition circulating among Century Elementary parents is offering two options. Either remove the ELL program from Century, or move the ELL students who are outside Century's boundary lines to another school and put a limit on the number remaining at the school.

"I was actually very sad when I read it, because I feel that any time that a group of parents are coming together and asking 10 percent of the student body to be removed from that school that isn't a positive way to discuss the issues that our school is dealing with," parent Patty Olsen, who is against the petition, said.

But parents in favor of the petition say it was simply a way to draw attention to the issue. They didn't feel their concerns were being heard.

"My standpoint, I would like to see this more as a discussion versus we're on this side and you're on that side," Spivey said.

Century is the largest elementary school in the district. Enrollment is up 138 students this year, and Century gained 54 of those students. The petition states specifically to relocate the ELL students to "a northern school."

"I think the idea of the north end was simply because some of those schools have been threatened to close, and our understanding is the north end doesn't want those schools to close," Spivey added.

"Our city is obviously growing to the south and that means the schools on the south end are going to have a larger student population. But they also were built to have the larger student populations," Olsen said.

The school district has offered to restructure school boundaries in hopes of relieving pressure at some of the larger schools. The petition states that this only "puts a band-aid" on the situation. Adding more teachers has also been a proposed option.

"At this point there are no classrooms left at Century, so you could add as many teachers as you want and there's no where to put them," Spivey said.

Both sides hope parents will come together to discuss the crowded classrooms and find a solution that will benefit all students.

"My concern is that the petition is going to alienate everyone when we're trying to bring everyone to the table and hear everyone's voice," Olsen said.

"We want every parent's input and you know, at the time the petition was drawn up the people that needed to listen didn't necessarily want to listen," Spivey said.

The petition calls for the school board's action by the end of this school year.

There will be a PTO meeting at Century on November 7th. All parents are welcome to that meeting. And both Superintendent Dr. Larry Nybladh and Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson will be at the meeting to hear parent's concerns.

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