New Menahga High School nears completion

A few weeks before school opens, contractors are wrapping up construction on the new Menahga High School addition.

The Menahga School Board toured the new high school addition on Monday, prior to their regular meeting.

Board chair Andrea Haverinen said the biggest question is “when can we move in?”

Construction manager Nick Ylitalo of Vercon said he has been in close contact with the state inspector, who visited last week and this week. Ylitalo said there is no concern about occupancy. The classrooms have been inspected and the punch list nearly completed.

“As you can see now, it’s mostly cleaning in the classrooms. The next phase of that will be the corridors,” he said, promising the floors will be polished and shiny before the Aug. 29 school open house.

The elevator was approved for use, “a big milestone,” he said, and the fire sprinkler system is live.


“On another positive note, we don’t have any recordable injuries on the project to date, which is about 280 days and about 75,000 man hours,” Ylitalo reported.

“Overall, the project budget is healthy,” he continued, noting that the contingency fund still has a $196,493 remaining balance.

Any remaining funds can be applied toward furniture, fixtures and equipment or be used to reduce any building debt, Superintendent Kevin Wellen said.

In his written report, Wellen said, “Will the building be perfect and 100 percent complete when we are moving in? Definitely not. Will it be safe and functional to educate students? Yes, or we can’t move in.”

All safety and occupancy requirements will be met, he wrote. The gymnasium, however, will not be ready for use until mid-September. Ylitalo explained that there was a need for humidifiers in the gym and it took longer than anticipated.

Wellen reported that the entire building has been rekeyed. All the classrooms were assigned new numbers: 1100s for elementary, 1200s for middle school, 1300s for first floor of high school, 2300 for second floor of high school and 1400s for district offices. Phone extension match the new room numbers.

A curb for the parking lot was expected this week, with asphalt to be applied next week.


Wellen said paraprofessionals and custodians will continue to clean as teachers move into their classrooms.

High School Principal Mark Frank thanked Menahga VFW Post Commander Larry Murphy for purchasing 22 U.S. flags and mounts for the new high school classrooms.

The board discussed holding a formal, public dedication of the new high school, possibly in early to mid-October.

Pairing programs up for discussion

As a formality, the school board signed Sebeka’s application to dissolve the UNC cooperative sponsorship of football, beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

Wellen showed that expenditures for paired programs – track, cross country, football, golf and wrestling – in 2018-19 were split between the two school districts, with Menahga paying $30,479 and Sebeka $27,833.

Student participation was equal between Menahga and Sebeka in track (21 versus 22, respectively), football (21 versus 16) and wrestling (18 versus 17).

In cross country, speech and golf, Menahga students comprise 80 to 90 percent of the teams compared to Sebeka students. “When I look at this, I ask myself the question, ‘Could we stand alone in cross country, speech and golf?,’ and I think we could,” Wellen said. “In each case, we’d have to give them a year’s notice.”

Athletic Director Don Donarski said speech and golf coaches are in support of stand-alone teams, but he had not yet spoken to cross country coaches. The advantages would be better communication, less transportation and convenience.


Board member Brad Goehrig noted that Menahga pays Sebeka $2,500 to maintain the track field. He asked if Sebeka would be paying for a portion of the new wrestling mats and maintaining the new wrestling space.

Wellen said he hadn’t addressed that yet since items hadn’t yet been ordered for the wrestling room.

Board member Durwin Tomperi made a motion to submit an application of dissolution for cross country, speech and golf for the 2020-21 school year.

Howard seconded the motion, saying, “The input I’ve gotten from the community is the whole football thing really put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.” She has heard parents are in favor of having Menahga-only teams, where possible.

Haverinen said parents have expressed concern about pairing with Park Rapids Schools. Regarding dissolving additional pairing programs with Sebeka, she said, “I believe this would probably benefit from a community discussion rather than a board mandate.”

Goehrig and board member Bob White said they would support the motion, but they would like Donarski to talk to all of the coaches first.

Tomperi withdrew the motion to allow for more discussion.

In other business, the board did as follows:

  • Accepted a $10,000 grant from America’s Farmer Grow Rural Education, which will be used to purchase STEM equipment, like laser engravers and 3D printers, for the elementary and middle school. Chris Lake, Tyler Butler and Ann Wothe wrote the grant application.

  • Learned that Bob White was the sole applicant for the school board vacancy. A general election will be held Nov. 5.

  • Approved the $58,717 purchase of a used bus from North Central Bus and Equipment.

  • Agreed to continue universal free student meals for the month of September.

  • Approved 2019-20 meal prices: breakfast, 80 cents for preK through grades 8, $1 for grades 9-12, $2 for adult/guest; lunch, $2.50 for preK-8; $2.60 for grades 9-12 and $3.75 for adult/guest.

  • Learned that choir teacher April Hodge found a couple willing to sell their restored 1921 Steinway baby grand piano to the school district for $5,000. Wellen authorized the purchase.

  • Accepted letters of resignation from paraprofessionals Brianne Helminen, Christine Knaack, Carly Carkhuff and Christina Burlingame.

  • Approved contracts with Ross Millar, industrial tech teacher and Mary Weaver, special education teacher.

  • Approved middle school English language arts curriculum for three years, costing $14,293.

  • Approved a lane change request from Amy Malikowski from BA+20 to MA.

  • Thanked the family of Shane Kernanen for their donation of two “buddy benches.” One will be placed on the main playground, the other at the kindergarten playground.

  • Approved a $49,625 transfer from the general fund to the food service fund.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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