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School board remembers young victims


Park Rapids School Board started its Monday meeting with a remembrance of those who lost their lives in Newtown, Conn.

Thoughts and prayers for the school shooting victims were silently sent eastward.

But faculty and staff at Park Rapids schools spent the weekend preparing.

Staff meetings early Monday finalized the message.

"We wanted them to know that schools are safe places for children," said Century School principal Joleen DeLaHunt.

"There was not much anxiety" as a result of the soothing message kids got from teachers and staff, she added.

"We have a crisis plan that is reviewed periodically and ironically we had everybody all together just a couple of weeks ago, which was the Park Rapids POD, the Sheriff's Department and all the school officials and we reviewed our crisis plans," said Superintendent Lance Bagstad in an interview after the board meeting.

"And we don't publish that, of course, because it's our internal crisis plan. We're on track," he said.

"We updated it, we reviewed it and we also decided that we're also going to run some exercise and our local law enforcement will put us to the test to make sure we are prepared. By state law we have to run so many fire drills and so many lockdowns so we're always in the process of continuing to do that."

DeLaHunt said kids question the necessity for the drills, but likely now understand their usefulness.

"Technology helps us in a way," Bagstad said. "Even though the four principals never met face-to-face we had a running conversation (over the weekend) as to how we're going to approach this at each of our buildings Monday morning so that's basically what it was.

"We were in constant contact throughout the weekend talking about how we were going to approach this and we were running ideas back so we had a discussion via text while we still were with our families and hugging our kids, to prepare for having all our staff and students safe come Monday morning and we're on top of it," Bagstad said.

"A letter went out Monday with elementary kids," he said. "Mr. (Jeff) Johnson used School Alert to notify all of our parents and the high school office also used our Student Information System which has all of our parent e-mails and actually sent an attachment to those folks."

That letter is being posted on the Enterprise website with this story.

In other business, the board heard about the repayment proposal of state aid monies long overdue.

"We may make it all year long without an aid anticipation loan," finance manager Carol Hutchinson said. She said the state is proposing an 82.5 percent payback rate of monies borrowed to balance the state budget years ago. That would be above the current payback rate of 64.3 percent, she said.

Read more about this in Saturday's Enterprise.

The board also heard of the "human electricity" running through the schools, newly supplied with iPad technology. Students are grasping the technology quickly, even proposing "fun things" to do with the mini computers, Community Education coordinator Jill Dickinson said of the current of excitement the technology has fostered.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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