The Park Rapids School Board heard an update from ICS educational consultants Monday about the district’s “PRoject 309” long-range planning initiative.

Jason Splett and Dave Bergeron with ICS reported that the last installment in a seven-video series about the project would be posted this week to the project’s website, project309.org.

They also outlined reasons and steps for putting a bonding question on the November election ballot, for the purpose of updating the district’s school facilities.

Reasons included the need to modernize facilities to serve the latest, research-based education practices; preparing for a multi-year design-build process; taking advantage of low interest rates, construction costs and possible stimulus dollars; and helping the community recover from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

Splett estimated that the project could generate approximately $4.3 million in labor income, subject to an economic impact study.

Steps toward putting the question on the November ballot include an online survey and a more scientific phone survey of the community by the Morris Leatherman Co., studying whether the taxpayers would be favorable to the referendum; more in-depth interviews with staff leadership; actual and/or virtual ice cream socials in June or July to gather community input; a decision by the school board in early August; and developing communication materials and a “Vote Yes” committee before early voting starts in mid-September.

According to Splett and Bergeron, the Leatherman survey will involve approximately 400 people across all demographics and will wrap around July 4. The results will show how COVID-19 has affected the district, how the community perceives the school board’s and administration’s performance, public awareness of the district’s needs, the effectiveness of their communication, quality of education in the district, voters’ tax impact threshold, their preference regarding the school facility options, and their level of support for a November referendum.

Stressing that no decisions have been made and that they aren’t recommending a particular option, Bergeron and Splett reminded the school board that the facility options include:

  • Option 1: renovating the facilities as is to meet current standards and needs – estimated to cost about $36 million.

  • Option 2: expanding and renovating the high school to serve grades 7-12 and repurposing Century School for early childhood through grade 6 – costing about $53 million.

  • Option 3: repurposing Century for EC-6 and building a new 7-12 facility – costing about $87 million, not including potential costs of relocating the athletic fields.