The Park Rapids School Board had a debriefing Monday about the failure of the school bond referendum on April 13.

The school board also approved a canvass of the ballots, in which 1,001 people voted in favor and 1,046 against the proposed $59.8 million bond issue to fund school facility improvements.

Board chair Sherry Safratowich said 943 of those votes were early voting or absentee ballots.

Safratowich voiced disappointment with the voter turnout, compared to approximately 8,000 eligible voters in the district and nearly 7,000 who voted in the November 2020 election.

She acknowledged that, in spite of hundreds of person-hours spent reaching out to potential voters to explain the need for the proposed improvements, the district’s Vote Yes committee somehow missed about 6,000 of them.

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Safratowich said one person told her he would have voted if someone had called to answer his questions. “My comment back was, ‘There’s a website, and you personally know me. You could have picked up the phone. How do I know that you hadn’t already been contacted?’”

She said the lack of turnout “hurt badly.”

School board member Stephanie Carlson said many people in the community have told her they were surprised that the bond effort failed.

“I don’t quite know what we have to do different,” she said. “I would think, between the staff and parents, that this would be very important.”

Superintendent Lance Bagstad praised the efforts of the team involved in the bonding project.

“Now we need to figure out what we’re going to do next.”

A special board meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 26 to consider how to address the district’s needs for educational facilities and programming.

Safratowich said they will discuss the possibilities that lie ahead, including whether to hold another election. If so, she said school board secretary Kim Splett has volunteered to run it.

“It’s a huge, huge job,” said Safratowich.

“If you would have asked me last week, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not,’” said Splett. “But now, I’m pretty well determined.”

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Approved a programming and staffing proposal for the 2021-22 school year, supporting Century Elementary Principal Mike LeMier’s recommendation to hire a kindergarten teacher, a title program teacher and an English Language Learner paraprofessional. The ELL position will be shared with Century Middle School.

  • Extended Bagstad’s contract for July 2021 through June 2024.

  • Hired Jacob Hutchins as a high school English teacher and Lexi Koerbitz as an elementary teacher for the 2021-22 school year.

  • Approved the resignations of Rebecca Grant as ninth grade girls basketball coach, Nicole Eischens as an elementary teacher and Megan Evans as a certified occupational therapy assistant.

  • Approved the retirement of paraprofessional Lynne Toensfeld, with regret and thanks for her 23 years of service to the school district.

  • Reviewed an enrollment report, showing that total K-12 enrollment held steady last month, with 1,542 students enrolled as of April 15. Meanwhile overall enrollment, including early childhood/pre-K programs and the high school Alternative Learning Center, dipped slightly from 1,681 students on March 11 to 1,677 on April 15.

  • Approved payments presented for April, totaling $1,444,112.

  • Learned that, for the year to date, there have been revenues totaling $17,137 and expenses totaling $15,244 on the student activities account.

  • Acknowledged donations totaling $2,264, including $1,564 via Donorschoose.org to Christine Sauer’s middle school classroom and $500 from Gary Gauldin to the Larry Welch Scholarship fund.