The Park Rapids School Board on Monday, Dec. 21, authorized ICS educational consultants to submit a request for review and comment to the state commissioner of education.

This is the first official step required to have a special election on April 13, 2021, seeking voter approval for a school improvement bond.

Moved by school board member Dennis Dodge and unanimously approved, the motion asks the Minnesota Department of Education to review and comment on a $57.8 million construction project, funded through $59.75 million in building bonds.

As stated in the motion, the project’s goals are to make room for preschool students at Century School; create space for the career and technical education, art and Alternative Learning Center programs; improve the school parking lots; build and equip a new bus garage; and in general terms, “the betterment of school sites and facilities.”

Previous discussion also specified the demolition of the Frank White Education Center, moving grades 7-8 from Century School to a new wing of the high school, improving security at building entrances and replacing the school tennis courts.

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Jason Splett with ICS told the school board that the main changes between the proposed bonding referendum and the initiative that failed in the Nov. 3 election are that there will be one ballot question instead of two, and because the school district has continued to pay down its existing debt, more money will be available to repair school roofs and invest in the bus garage.

Greg Crowe with Ehlers financial advisers said the timing is important because of the current low interest rates, which will keep the tax impact of the bond issue to a minimum.

Justin Maaninga with ICS said contractors are voicing a lot of interest in bidding for the project, calling them “really hungry” for the opportunity. Splett talked about breaking the project into multiple “bid packages” to give local contractors more chances of taking part.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad extolled the advantages of keeping the money spent on the project within the local economy. School board chair Sherry Safratowich added that it could give local youth experience as interns or laborers.

Contract amended, polling places set

In related business, the school board voted to extend its contract with ICS to plan, develop and implement the district’s facility improvements.

The amended agreement brings the 2021 special election into the project’s scope and agrees to pay the firm $10,000 for pre-referendum work, including MDE paperwork and communicating with voters.

Dodge moved to approve the addendum, and the motion passed unanimously.

The school board also approved a resolution establishing polling places and hours for special school elections during 2021.

Moved by board member Stephanie Carlson and approved unanimously, the resolution calls for the Frank White Education Center, the Osage Community Center and the Lake George Township Hall to serve as combined polling locations for surrounding townships within the district from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the day of the election.

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Hired Zach Fennell as a paraprofessional, effective Dec. 14.

  • Posted an open position as kindergarten-grade 1 distance learning teacher.

  • Removed early out and distance learning days from the school calendar, scheduled for Jan. 20, Feb. 10 and March 17, 2021. Superintendent Lance Bagstad said the changes are due to a Business Professionals of America meet at the school being canceled and previous schedule updates due to COVID-19, ensuring that teachers will have enough professional development hours without those dates.

  • Acknowledged a $2,000 donation from the Wolf Lake Baseball Association to the boys hockey program.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4 at the Frank White Education Center.