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Park Rapids plans to add sixth section of kindergarten this fall

A Park Rapids kindergarten class that's grown to 133 students will greet a sixth teacher in the pod, come September.

Superintendent Glenn Chiodo told the board the class is the second largest in the district, sophomores numbering 138. It's the first time in at least 10 years that kindergarten enrollment has been at this level.

And the numbers may rise before school starts, Chiodo told the board of anticipated enrollment.

"It's the first experience for the little folks. We need to make it positive," he said. "Their needs are huge."

At five classes, students would number 26 to 27 per room. With six classes, students will experience a 1 to 22 student-teacher ratio. "And this could grow," Chiodo said.

"It was a surprise," Chiodo said of the appreciable increase in enrollment.

"I'd support six classrooms if we can make the numbers work," board chair Sherry Safratowich said, noting her time as a volunteer in elementary classrooms prompted the recommendation.

The request earned unanimous board approval.

In other action, the school board:

n Learned, thanks to a grant and partnerships with area organizations, elementary students will be sampling fresh fruits and vegetables once a week in classrooms this year.

Coordinated by Molly Aukes, Century Elementary will partner with St. Joseph's Area Health Services, the PTA, J&B Foods, Lakes and Valley Community Supported Agriculture and Lamb Weston/RDO Frozen, who will introduce baked potatoes as an alternative to French fries.

The fledgling dietitians will be introduced to smoothies and vegetable soup as a means to raise nutrition awareness.

Funding for the initiative is based on free and reduced price lunch numbers (determined by family income).

Because of limited cooler space, the program will be offered just one day a week.

n Century School principal Bruce Gravalin reported teachers have participated in a number of hours of staff development this summer, addressing the new math curriculum, Genesis software and undergoing training for use of SMART boards (which offer a collaborative learning environment in the classroom).

Century will host an open house for K-8 students and parents or guardians from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2.

n Orientation for Park Rapids Area High School freshmen will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1.

Principal Jeff Johnson anticipates 20 new students in the high school. "This can fluctuate," he told the board, "but it's looking positive."

Cleaning and carpet installation are underway in the high school, he reported, with staff expected to return Monday to move back into classrooms.

n Learned Community Education has received a two-year $4,000 SHIP grant to fund an after-school program for students in grades K-4. Director Jill Dickinson said the program will employ one supervisor with volunteers to be recruited. Cost per student will be $50 per month for full-time, $25 for half-time participation.

"We hope to build on last year's success," she told the board of the program initiated in the second half of the school year.

n Approved a one-year leave of absence for swimming and diving coach Kristi Goochey, Roman Horejsi her replacement.

n Approved hiring Bryan Hirt as middle school football coach, replacing Terry Schroeder.

n Approved bids of $87 and $1,313 for scissor lifts from Steven Haataja.

n Approved several purchase of service PAWN contracts, including test administrator positions, speech and hearing and autism/physical disabilities services, a school psychologist and a secretary/ bookkeeper.