The Park Rapids School Board on Tuesday, Sept. 8, approved a partnership agreement with Apex Learning to use Digital Curriculum Resources.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad said, “Our partnership with Apex is allowing us to not only have tools and resources for our staff to work with in individual curriculum, but also … to develop the Park Rapids Area Virtual Academy, which we are enrolling students in right now.”

Bagstad said 11 students are currently enrolled in the virtual academy.

School board chair Sherry Safratowich called the program an opportunity for the district to retain students.

“This could be the wave of the future,” agreed board member Gary Gauldin, calling it an opportunity for students, staff and the community.

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Board member Dennis Dodge moved to approve the agreement, and the motion passed unanimously.

Board member Stephanie Carlson moved to approve the interim curriculum coordinator position, which Bagstad said “goes hand in hand” with developing the virtual academy.

Fourth grade teacher Jill Stevenson is being internally reassigned to fill that role, and will head up the virtual academy.

“I think this is going to be a key piece in not only moving us forward and helping our staff be more digital curriculum literate, as well as providing opportunities for our students,” he said, “but in the long run, I believe, it would also help our (curricular) scope in sequence K-12 to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all of our members.”

Free breakfast and lunch

The school board approved offering students free breakfast and lunch until USDA funding expires or until Dec. 31.

Business manager Kent Fritze said the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Aug. 31 that it would continue offering its summer food service program until funding runs out. On Sept. 4, the Minnesota Department of Education concurred.

Fritze cautioned that this could lead to families not submitting free and reduced lunch applications, which have an impact on school revenues based on state funding formulas.

“So, it’s very critical that we continue to collect those applications,” he said.

Board member Jay Pike moved to approve the plan, and the motion passed unanimously.

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Accepted the resignations of Mary Harvala as elementary paraprofessional, Katie Deschene as community education para, Kathy Symanietz as preschool para and Carla Stover as food service employee.

  • Accepted the retirement of preschool paraprofessional Mary Luetgers, effective Sept. 1, with regret and thanks for her 28 years of service to the school district.

  • Hired Karen Branstrom as Alternative Learning Center paraprofessional effective Aug. 31, Eric Bervig as volunteer cross country coach and Lacy Johansen as preschool para.

  • Approved a 2020-21 food service contract with MAHUBE-OTWA.

  • Acknowledged several donations, including $500 from Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association to Century Middle School.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21 at the Frank White Education Center.