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Park Rapids School Board agrees to do facility assessment

Natalie Holt, Jason Splett and Dave Bergeron represent ICS Consulting, Inc. Monday to explain their firm's proposal to the Park Rapids Area School Board. The board voted to partner with ICS to study the district's educational facility needs and, depending on their findings, implement a building plan. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

The Park Rapids Area School Board voted Monday to partner with ICS Consulting, Inc. to study how changes to the district's facilities could help meet current educational goals.

As part of a professional services agreement that will be presented for approval at the school board's next meeting, ICS presenters Dave Bergeron and Jason Splett said that upon delivery of the study's findings, the school board will decide whether to move forward with facility improvements in partnership with ICS or end the process at that point.

As they described it, stages in the process include listening sessions with staff, students and community stakeholders about the school's space needs, an enrollment projection based on local population and economic trends, an assessment of the current facilities and their "educational adequacy," architectural and financial solutions to meet the district's instructional needs and, if necessary, a voter referendum.

ICR would also work with the school board to make an evidence-based final decision and to implement a building program, if any.

Bergeron noted that, thanks to sound financial management, the district could take on another $26 million worth of debt with minimal effect on the tax levy.

Splett gave a very tentative timeline for the process, including surveys, assessments and outlining potential funding solutions during the summer, completing listening sessions in September, outlining solutions for the school's facility needs in late fall, a public review and feedback period during winter 2019-20, a board decision and filing for a referendum (if necessary) by late February, a public vote to decide on funding in May 2020, design during the latter half of 2020, bidding in early 2021 and construction from May 2021 to August 2023, depending on the scope of the improvements.

It was emphasized that this timetable is highly susceptible to change.

Board member Stephanie Carlson moved to undertake the study with ICS Consulting, a process estimated to cost approximately $18,000 before the next decision must be taken.

During discussion of the motion, board member Gary Gauldin expressed his confidence in ICS based on their past performance. Carlson's motion passed without dissent.

Later in the meeting, school board members shared their meditations based on the strategic planning goal of making the school a place for students to belong. They stressed the importance of making the school a place where every student wants to be.

To sum up the discussion, Gauldin suggested, "If you don't feel like you belong, what do you want to become part of?"

In consent items and general business, the school board:

• Approved the updated course offerings included in the 2019-20 Panther Tracks Registration Booklet, including "We are PR" (leadership training), "Senior Capstone" (career readiness), "Intro to AFNR" (agriculture, food and natural resources), "Minnesota Outdoors," "Earth, Energy and Environment," "Advanced Study in Agriculture" (independent study), "Career & Tech Leadership," (FFA Supervised Agricultural Experiences), horticulture, forestry, animal science, world foods, landscape design and agriculture occupations.

• Acknowledged a donation of lumber from Renneberg Hardwoods to industrial technology teacher Jeff Dravis' class and to the high school prom.

• Acknowledged members of the swimming, diving and wrestling teams who competed at state this year as well as two of Mike Hartung's art students who won statewide contests.

• Hired Meghan Eidsmoe (elementary teacher), Allison Steffen (speech language pathologist), Michael Lorden (C-squad boys basketball coach) and Jesse Bucholz (ninth-grade football coach).

• Hired, contingent on licensure, Katelyn Seehafer, Nicole Eischens and Bucholz (elementary teachers) and Kaitlyn Bjorkstrand (middle school special education).

• Approved volunteer coaches Ken Bynum (softball), Earl Debates and Trevor Matheny (track), Zach Hocking and Lorden (baseball).

• Accepted the resignations of Lorden (assistant boys basketball coach), Alyssa Erickson (second grade teacher), Zac Erickson (kindergarten teacher), Patrick Richard (student council co-adviser), Shari Emerson (middle school special education teacher), Megan Cole (elementary physical education teacher and all extracurricular positions), Randy Thompson (middle school math teacher), Kristi Smyth (boys diving coach), Rachel Grev (elementary special education teacher) and Brad VanBuskirk (bus driver).

• Reduced the position of community education/activities secretary effective at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

• Posted the new position of a 30-hour-per-week community education secretary.

• Approved the second readings of policies about school fundraising, school-sponsored student publications and activities, wellness, selection of textbooks and instructional materials, religion, field trips and payment of fees.

The school board's next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 15 in the Frank White Education Center.