Clark says free-food December could pay for itself

The food service supervisor told the Park Rapids School Board on Oct. 17 that a few students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals would make the incentive worthwhile.

Park Rapids Area High School
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo
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Food Service Supervisor JT Clark told the Park Rapids School Board on Monday that his program has been serving about the same number of qualifying meals per week as last year.

“With everything being free last year, I think that’s a win for us, now that it’s not free,” he said, adding that they’re up about 150 meals per day from 2019-20.

Clark suggested offering free meals during December as an incentive to apply for free or reduced meals, since the number of free-and-reduced applications is factored into the schools’ compensatory revenue.

When this was done in 2019-20, he said, it cost the school district about $11,000 but the district received over $186,000 in compensatory revenue. “We had 45 people that qualified for free meals and another 20 that qualified for reduced,” he said.

This year, Clark said, “if every student ate every meal every day, that doesn’t currently have an application in, it would cost the district $27,000. That would be a high. So, we’d need eight free students and two reduced students to break even.”


Clark said 35% of students currently had not turned in an application.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad said this would be brought back for action at the school board’s next meeting.

Board business in brief

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Hired Lisa Turek as an elementary paraprofessional and Kayla Jensen as a high school paraprofessional.
  • Accepted the resignation of middle school custodian Kenny Hemenway.
  • Approved out-of-state travel for teacher Shane Graham to travel to Portland, Ore. from Jan. 18 to 20, 2023 with the Bemidji State University Science Department for physics concurrent enrollment.
  • Approved the first reading of a job description for a Type III driver. Transportation Director David Synstegaard explained later that a Type III driver does not drive a traditional school bus and is not required to have a commercial driver’s license, enabling the district to transport 14 or fewer passengers.
  • Approved the district’s Education Minnesota and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees staff seniority lists for 2022-23.
  • Approved a fundraiser for Business Professionals of America state and national convention participants. Club co-adviser Krystal Murphy said later that the BPA is thinking about selling sponsorship ads for a team T-shirt.
  • Acknowledged donations to the schools, including $5,000 from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, gift cards for educational resources via to first-grade teacher Nicole Brandt’s class, and school and personal hygiene supplies from Randi Menten to the Alternative Learning Center.
  • Acknowledged a total allocation of $34,001 from the Park Rapids Education and Activities Foundation to various clubs and classrooms, including $500 to elementary P.E. teacher Molly Aukes, $607 to interventionist Casey Swenson, $1,000 to BPA advisor Angie Kuehn, $1,320 to the tennis program, $1,421 to the high school weight room, $1,500 each to the gymnastics, boys hockey and Esports programs, the post-prom committee and art teacher Mike Hartung for a camera lens, $2,000 each to the cross country, football, volleyball and boys basketball programs, and $10,000 to the wrestling program for wrestling mats.
  • Scheduled their superintendent evaluation meeting for Nov. 7, following the regular school board meeting.
  • Received an enrollment report showing that From Sept. 16 to Oct. 13, the schools’ enrollment went down by 12 students, from 1,641 to 1,629 in grades K-12 or from 1,774 to 1,762 districtwide. 
  • Approved payments presented for October, totaling $2,401,763.

Approval of the cooperative agreement with Walker-Hackensack-Akeley for the boys hockey program was pulled from the consent agenda for consideration at the school board’s next meeting.
The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7 at the Frank White Education Center.

The school board learned Jan. 23 that the district is part of a group of districts partnering in a $3.8 million DHS grant to increase mental health services in the schools.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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