PR superintendent: ‘We have awesome opportunities’

By Jean Park Rapids Schools took center stage Friday as administrators addressed a group of 75-plus on the "state of the district and where we are going," Superintendent Lance Bagstad said of "working towa...

Education forum
John Schumacher addressed the crowd Friday noon. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

By Jean Ruzicka

Park Rapids Schools took center stage Friday as administrators addressed a group of 75-plus on the “state of the district and where we are going,” Superintendent Lance Bagstad said of “working toward the future.
“We have awesome opportunities,” he said, citing the school’s “empowering” educational initiatives and the integration of technology, with “1,100 mobile devices in students’ hands every day.”
The budget, Bagstad said, is stable with revenues exceeding expenditures. The $600 per pupil referendum is set to expire, he said, indicating voters may be making a decision on its continuance.
“Enrollment is key to finance,” he said of maintaining numbers of enrollees. As of January, 1,482 students were arriving for class, compared with 1,419 at the end of school last year.
“Kindergarten is huge,” Bagstad said of the 149 students.
Century principal Joleen DeLaHunt and assistant principal Shawn Andress highlighted Century School’s expanded programs (kindergarten preparedness and bussing) and initiatives recently implemented.
These include Read Well by Third Grade, schoolwide Title I, an Alternative Learning Center transition class for grades 5-8, supplemental reading and math services and “creative classes,” engaging students in robotics, water studies, economics and history.
“Literacy continues to be a strong focus,” DeLaHunt said of the leveled library (books matched to students’ abilities). “And little people are not left behind in technology.”
Century Elementary students have daily physical education classes, a comprehensive music program, Accellerated Reader incentives, hands-on field trips, a program for English language learners and character education.
The school has community partnerships through PTA, Kinship and the foster grandparent program.
Free lunch and breakfast are offered for youth at Century during the summer.
Century has a ‘high quality staff,’ meeting “high expectations,” DeLaHunt told community members. “We are proud of this team of educators,” she said, noting “Century continues to come out at the top.”
The middle school’s ALC program addresses brain growth, rapid from age 0 to 2 and again from 11 to 14 years, Andress explained. “Not everyone fits a round peg in a square hole,” she said of students’ individual development characteristics. Supplemental math and science are offered as well as support for the school’s “high fliers,” she said of academically gifted students.
“How do we create thinkers?” DeLaHunt asked of engaging students in the core subjects of science, social studies, reading and math. “And offer diverse opportunities for learning?”
DeLaHunt and Andress welcomed visitors for tours of the school.

Addressing all student needs
In 2014, Park Rapids was recognized as home to one of “America’s Best High Schools” by U.S. News & World Report.
The Park Rapids Area High School concentrates on where the student is headed after high school, Principal Jeff Johnson said of post-secondary and career planning.
PRAHS students can earn up to 31 college credits at no expense, he said, meeting face-to-face with teachers, not a screen.
Vocational courses include home construction, a certified nursing program, small engines, aviation, welding, automotive, accounting and more.
“This gives kids a plan for the future,” Johnson said. “Every one is completely different.”
The high school’s new ALC program recently congratulated its first graduate. “A super duper senior who came back after two years to finish.”
The ALC program has evolved from an after-school credit recovery program to day classes the last two years.
Because returning students have a difficult time integrating with current students, the classroom site was moved to Frank White, with 36 students currently enrolled.
“Thanks to a partnership with Mahube,” 10 students with children have access to day care for infants and children.
“Lisa Coborn is doing a bang up job,” high school assistant principal John Schumacher said of the ALC director.
The program addresses not only academics, but life skills - volunteerism and preparing for a job interview, for example.
Schumacher said the high school strives to increase graduation rates through communication with students, including “committed to graduate” wristbands. The school has an 82 percent graduation rate.
PRAHS literally rolled out a red carpet last fall to welcome returning students.
The high school has a “pause before you post” initiative to thwart cyber bullying.
Making “connections with kids” is paramount, Schumacher said.
A catch-up hour is on the docket for kids struggling with homework, with enrichment activities to be offered for those who are on course. Tutoring is offered in the library four days a week.
The school has developed business and civic partnerships, Johnson noted, citing a TEAM Industries consortium that works to certify students for entry level jobs.
RDO has partnered with the school to develop an outdoor classroom.
Students are heading to job fairs and undergoing testing to determine career interests.
“And we want to bring in more business and professionals to talk to students,” Johnson said. Businesses, he said, are welcome to set up tables this spring for summer job applications.
“We wouldn’t have the school we have without community partnerships,” he emphasized.
Schumacher echoed the sentiment, thanking the community for its continued support, citing the foundation and referendum approvals.
“The partnership is a continued challenge for us to get better,” Andress said.

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