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5 things to know today: Snow days, Next steps, Resident backlash, Yass Prize, Home buying

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

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A man carries a shovel Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, while walking down Eighth Street South, Fargo.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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1. Fargo schools exhaust snow days, eye virtual learning option going forward

With Fargo Public Schools canceling classes on Wednesday, Dec. 14, and again on Thursday due to bad weather, the district has now utilized the two snow make-up days that were built into the school calendar for the 2022-23 school year, per board of education policy.

Those two missed days are scheduled to be made up with classes held in person on April 10 and May 26.

Going forward, district policy allows Superintendent Rupak Gandhi to waive future educational hours due to emergency closures up to the minimum required by the state.

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The Fargo district at all academic levels has longer school days than are required by the state, which creates a buffer of sorts when it comes to waiving instructional time due to bad weather.

In the 2021-22 school year, the Fargo district canceled at least three school days that didn't need to be made up due to the buffer that the district's longer school days provide.

Fargo schools currently have the following number of educational hours over the minimum requirement — high school level, 93.33 hours; elementary level, 78.75 hours; middle school level, 35 hours, according to AnnMarie Campbell, communications director and executive assistant to the superintendent and school board for Fargo Public Schools.

Also, because the Fargo school district has used its two built-in snow days, Gandhi now has the option of moving students to virtual learning if emergency closures due to weather become abundant this winter.

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Read more from The Forum's David Olson

2. After CFIUS announcement on Fufeng project, everyone waiting for next steps

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The future site of the Fufeng Group project on the north end of Grand Forks. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

After a federal agency determined a proposed wet corn mill plant land deal does not fall under its jurisdiction , the next steps for the plant still need to be decided.

Sheila Spicer, an opponent of the proposal who lives near the site of the proposed Fufeng plant near Grand Forks, said she is disappointed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) response, but is waiting to see what happens next.

“I’m just going to wait and see what else comes out of this,” Spicer said.

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National security and risks to Grand Forks Air Force Base remain a concern for Spicer, who said she would like to see further review be completed. The Fufeng Group is an agribusiness with ties to China.

“I wasn’t really counting on CFIUS to do what needs to be done, but like I said, I think the thing now goes into the security and stuff for our air base, the drones out there,” Spicer said. “I would hate to see those people leave because of what (the proposed plant is) bringing into Grand Forks. If we lose the base and the drones this town will literally fall apart, so what I’m hoping is they will take a bigger look into this.”

CFIUS completed its review on Monday, Dec. 12, and it was released on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland said that the outcome from the review indicates that “CFIUS is not taking action to suspend, lock or prohibit the transaction.”

Feland said additional reviews on Fufeng could happen, but he’s not aware of what those reviews may be.

Read more from Forum News Service's Meghan Arbegast

3. Energy company cuts planned Gregory County reservoir in half in response to resident backlash

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A mock-up of the proposed pumped storage reservoir, which would sit on a bluff approximately 700 feet above Lake Francis Case in Gregory County. The reservoir size has been cut in half in new filings, and artistic renderings of the new size have not been released yet.
Courtesy Missouri River Energy Services

Key changes are coming to a proposed hydropower project in Gregory County as it moves closer to entering a two-year study phase.

On Dec. 12, Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, one of the actors behind the pumped storage project, filed its second scoping document and a proposed study plan, showing the company had decided to cut the size of a planned reservoir in half.

The new, lengthier proposed study plan includes more specific study methodology and an additional five studies in areas such as soil stability, ice formation and the effect of the project on the endangered northern long-eared bat. The scope of already-existing studies were also widened in some cases to take into account comments.

A full accounting of public comments and the project’s general responses can be found in the first section of the second scoping document.

These public comments — mainly around worries about economic loss, personal safety, water quality and aesthetic and recreational resources — were brought forward during a set of virtual meetings on Sept. 22. In addition, dozens of written statements were provided during the first public comment period.

The pumped-storage project, as it's known, would consist of an upper reservoir in Gregory County that would be filled by pumping water up from Lake Francis Case during times when wind and solar energy supplies are high and affordable.

The upper reservoir would then act as a natural battery of sorts, meaning it would be emptied and produce hydropower during times of high energy usage that might strain an increasingly renewable grid.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jason Harward

4. Northern Cass School District wins $500,000 for education innovation

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The Northern Cass School District has received national acclaim and a half-million dollars for being one of America’s most innovative and effective education providers.

The school district was one of nine finalists for the $1 million Yass Prize award and was recognized at a banquet at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, Dec. 14, according to a news release.

As a finalist, the district received a $500,000 STOP Award for having educational programs that are sustainable, transformational, outstanding and permissionless — meaning they’re free to exist and thrive without dependence on regulatory bodies, according to the organization.

Northern Cass serves students in six rural North Dakota communities, each comprising fewer than 250 people.

Read more

5. Is it a good time to buy a home in the Fargo-Moorhead area?

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Between high selling prices, interest rate hikes and a tight market, prospective home buyers in our area might be thinking twice about buying a home.

But it's still possible with a bit of patience, says Park Company realtor Kari Myhre. She sat down with host Thomas Evanella to give a lay of our home-buying landscape.

Listen to the Business Beat podcast to learn more

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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