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Park Rapids to combine hockey with Leech Lake

Park Rapids will be pairing with Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in hockey next season, the school board approving the proposal Monday night.

Board members, with the exception of Gary Gauldin, voted in favor of the agreement, with athletic director John Schumacher and superintendent Glenn Çhiodo expressing support.

Karol Savage, prior to the vote, voiced concern with pairing the peewee programs, questioning age appropriateness.

But the board member supports the co-op. "Competition is healthy. I don't believe in mediocrity. It makes a difference in personal growth," she said. "I support this for a two-year program, but not the little people. Let them grow up."

The issue has been divisive with opposition to pairing expressed at a public forum earlier this month.

Head coach Pete Stahnke recommended pairing with the Leech Lake Hockey organization, noting the WHA hockey association is unanimously in favor.

Chiodo earlier reported receiving unsolicited donations of $3,500 per year over the next two years, indicating community support for the co-op.

Terms of the agreement call for the team name to be Panther Hockey, orange and black the team colors.

Three varsity/JV games and two JV games will be played at Walker. Nine varsity/JV games will be played in Park Rapids. The majority of practices will be held in Park Rapids.

Sixty percent of program cost would be borne by Park Rapids, 40 percent by WHA. The co-op agreement will be for a minimum of two years. The co-op team will retain Class A status.

In other action, the board:

n Learned the Legislature has approved a shift in school funding from 73-27 to 70-30.

"We're still hoping the state will pay it back," Chiodo said of the delay.

School budgets have not been reduced, but the money will be slow to arrive. School officials reportedly prefer the shift, as opposed to an outright budget cut, because the money is theoretically to be paid to districts.

Much of the $2 billion in delayed funds is supposed to be paid to districts by 2011.

n Reported student numbers are down slightly from last month, but steady. "It's been a long time since I've been able to say that," Chiodo said, noting kindergarten enrollment is up a notch from last year.

n Honored students of the month Amber McGowan for May, Shannon Taylor in June.

n Reported the school has applied for a fresh fruit and vegetable grant which would be served as a snack in the elementary.

n Approved a catering contract with Mahube Community Council.

n Approved Nic Lembcke as head girls basketball coach.