The Park Rapids School Board approved a resolution on Monday to call a special election about issuing school building bonds.

The resolution proposes to borrow up to $59.75 million through an election to be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 13.

The purpose of the bond is to improve school facilities, including renovations and additions at the high school and Century School, “to better align grades within the buildings and to provide space for career and technical education, art programs and the Alternative Learning Center,” to build a new bus garage and other site improvements.

“We believe we have developed a plan that reflects our community’s top priorities,” Superintendent Lance Bagstad said in a press release after the meeting. “After November, we continued to hear feedback from community members that was overwhelmingly supportive of an investment project for our schools. They recognize that the needs of our facilities are critical, but may have needed more time to consider the plan. So, we made the decision to try again.”

The release explained that improvements would include demolishing the Frank White Education Center to make way for a new high school wing with a new gymnasium, space for the Alternative Learning Center and administrative offices, and classrooms for grades 7-9, as well as properly secured entrances and updates to meet federal accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. Century School upgrades would include an added classroom, retooling to serve early childhood through grade 6, an added drop-off and pick-up lane and new playground equipment.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“COVID-19 has really shown us that students learn best in classrooms,” school board chair Sherry Safratowich said in the release. “This plan would give us the space to meet the needs of all current students and accommodate the larger classes of the future.”

The release cites currently low interest rates, enrollment expected to increase 10 percent during the next decade, competition for building contracts and the opportunity for local jobs as the project moves forward. The proposed plan is estimated to raise school property taxes an average of $10 per month.

Courtesy of Park Rapids Area Schools.
Courtesy of Park Rapids Area Schools.

The sample ballot included with the resolution shows a single, yes-or-no question, asking whether the school district shall be authorized to issue such a bond for that purpose.

The resolution also notes that holding the election is contingent on a favorable review and comment by the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education. It also lays out deadlines and procedures for publishing election notices and sample ballots, testing voting machines, counting ballots, appointing election judges and filing campaign finance reports.

For more information about the referendum, visit PRoject309.org or contact Bagstad at 237-6501 or lbagstad@parkrapids.k12.mn.us.