Menahga School revisits class sizes, gym seating

Half of the 16-member Menahga Gigabots team visited Tuesday's school board meeting, bringing their robot, Epsilon. Club members reported on their progress this year, mentionging that they need sponsorship funding and more adult mentors.

The Menahga School Board reversed its January decision that increased class sizes in fourth and sixth grade.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted to have four sections in kindergarten through sixth grade.

With data from eight regional school districts in hand, Superintendent Kevin Wellen asked the board to reconsider the number of sections per grade. The Pillager School District conducted the survey of Bertha-Hewitt, Pierz, Little Falls, Pine River-Backus, Upsala and Crosby-Ironton. Wellen said he was surprised by the data, showing classes sizes hovering around 20 students per section. “I wasn’t expecting sizes that small,” he said, adding that the district can afford the extra teaching staff, he’s confident they will have a balanced budget again this year, and that the district wants to remain attractive to families and staff.

Board members Bob White, Julia Kicker and Katie Howard said they favored smaller class sizes. Board member Brad Goehrig made the motion to have four sections in K-6 so long as the district was not deficit spending. Board member Durwin Tomperi seconded. It passed 5-0, with Andrea Havernin absent.

The board will revisit class section numbers every year, Wellen noted.


Gym seating troubles

Blending home fans and visitors in the new high school’s gymnasium seating has proven contentious.

Rebecca Tormanen told the board Tuesday that she has been harassed by visiting fans multiple times. She recommended assigning a larger portion of seating to home fans rather than splitting each side of the gym in half.

Tomperi said he also received a lot of calls about visiting audiences making snide remarks.

Wellen pointed out that the “V” on the wall was never intended to mean “visitors.” It means “victory.”

Athletic Director Don Donarski and MHS Principal Mark Frank noted it is fairly common practice to split each side of the gym 50-50 between home and visiting fans.

Howard replied, “It’s become obvious that it’s not working for our community and that’s who it needs to work for. … I think you guys made a mistake and you just need to remedy that mistake.”

Donarski and Frank asked for board direction.

The board agreed to put it on their March agenda.


In other business, the board did as follows:

  • Congratulated elementary teacher Michelle Koch, middle school teacher Stephanie Kramer and high school teacher Kami Johnson for being named Menahga Teachers of Excellence.

  • Recognized Devon Harsha-Leritz and Chloe Hrdlicka as MHS 2020 Students of Character.

  • Learned that class composite photos have been uploaded to the digital touchwall and may be viewed at .

  • Learned that the Mid-Minnesota Builders Association and nine different companies (plumbing, electrical, construction, surveying, etc.) met with high school building classes. They also donated over $1,400 in tools to the shop program.

  • Authorized the purchase of a new marquee, not to exceed $30,000. Wellen explained that the current marquee died for the second time in three years. It is more than 20 years old and repairs would cost $3,000. Administration recommended replacing it.

  • Authorized the purchase of a 7-by-14-foot, enclosed trailer, not to exceed $8,000. It would be utilized by the robotics team, one-act play, band and others within the district. “After discussion, it is worth our investment,” Wellen wrote in his report.

  • Authorized the purchase of a 77-passenger bus, not to exceed $97,000, and a 10-passenger van, not to exceed $34,000.

  • Approved the 2019-21 master agreement with teachers. Wellen said one of the goals of negotiation was to attract new teachers to the district. A starting teacher’s salary of $41,565 makes Menahga competitive with other districts, he said.

  • Amended the out-of-state travel policy so that any requests for students and staff to trave more than 50 miles outside of Minnesota requires prior school board approval.

  • Approved an eight-week, unpaid medical leave request from Amy Lillquist, beginning Feb. 4.

  • Approved a Family Medical Leave Act extension request from Deborah Aho through February.

  • Accepted letters of resignations from elementary teacher Destiny Mitchell, with thanks for her three years of service, and from ESL teacher Kay Peloquin, with thanks for her five years of service. Both are effective May 29.

  • Learned that the JV head football coach position has been posted.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
What To Read Next
Get Local