School property tax levy falls; hearing draws one

The Park Rapids School District's levy for property taxes payable in 2008 is less than in 2007, but the school board conducted a Truth in Taxation hearing Monday night anyway.

The Park Rapids School District's levy for property taxes payable in 2008 is less than in 2007, but the school board conducted a Truth in Taxation hearing Monday night anyway.

Residents proposed property tax notices promised the hearing.

"We were required to have it as a formality," explained business manager Carol Hutchinson, adding the district's levy could have been more than $4.95 million before a hearing was required.

Next year's levy is approximately $4.40 million, 7.27 percent less than for 2007 and approximately one-fourth of the school's $18.7 million budget for 2007-08.

Of the $4.4 million of revenue coming from property taxes, 56 percent, or approximately $2.4 million, is for debt service on the bonds voters approved in 1999 to build the Century School and do some remodeling and renovation at the Area High School.


Another $1 million of the local levy was approved by voters in a school referendum in 2006.

Hutchinson showed a history of the district's total levies. For property taxes payable in 2001 the levy was in excess of $6.3 million. By 2004, it dropped to $2.6 million.

Formula allowances from the state increased $100 per pupil unit, going from $4,974 to $5,074 for 2008, Hutchinson said.

Karl Dyre, resort owner and retired Park Rapids social studies teacher, was the only resident who attended the hearing. He asked some questions about open enrollment, including whether or not Park Rapids provides transportation to open-enrolled students.

Superintendent Glenn Chiodo used Menahga as an example, saying if the district has a bus going there, it would pick kids up, but would not go into the district for an individual student.

Health curriculum

Staff presented proposed health curriculum, another area on the review cycle this year. Earlier, physical education staff had presented their proposed curriculum.

Much has changed, the instructors agreed. "Seventh graders are watching the birth of a baby and talking about sexual health issues," said Cathy Peterson, who's taught health classes in middle school grades for 30 years. "The transformation is incredible."


Kids are being exposed to "things" at an early age, Peterson explained. "We hope we're meeting the needs of students and the big decisions they have to make."

Matt Clark, health instructor at the Area High School, added there have been changes across the board, from nutrition information to rules related to CPR. In addition, he said television commercials air information about sexually transmitted diseases and the news broadcasts debates about vaccinating pre-adolescent girls for STDs.

Peterson said there is a lot to cover and she only has sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in class for 30 days. "It's difficult to fit everything in," she said.

At the same time, she said, the school's health curriculum is community-based with involvement from Tina Eischens' Human Achievement and Performance Academy, Alcoholics Anonymous, St. Joseph's Area Health Services, Upper Mississippi Mental Health and others.

Information provided to the school board included the Minnesota Student Survey three years ago. Results from the survey completed last spring are expected soon.

Board member asked if the survey results influence curriculum.

Barb Thomason, who's teaching health classes at the high school, said in the past, she made an effort to get the results out to the public as much as possible since the community needs to be aware and is involved.

Area High School principal Al Judson observed Thomason is teaching parenting classes and will teach a teen issues class. These are health curriculum areas, which had been dropped during budget cuts and are being reinstated, he said.


Valeri Burton, an elementary teacher, said students in kindergarten through Grade 4 have 30 minutes of health-related curriculum three times per week, but math and reading take precedence over everything."

But things have changed. Burton said when she started teaching five years ago, kids didn't know about marijuana or cocaine or have any questions. "Now, when we bring it up, everyone has a story about an uncle or someone they know," she said.

"They've been exposed to it so much earlier than we ever were."

The school board is expected to approve the proposed curriculum at the Dec. 17 meeting.

In other action Monday night, the school board:

n Saw and heard social studies presentations on SmartBoards by two of Ardis Johnson's students.

Afterward, Johnson, who teaches seventh and eighth grade social studies, put in a plug for laptops for every student. "They need time on computers to prepare things like this. If they had access to this at their desks, there would be no stopping them."

Johnson explained that the computer lab at Century School is in use when she has classes.


n Approved Ben Sperle as an assistant swim coach.

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