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Second school listening session gauges planning priorities

Tennis, tech and gymnastics were frequently mentioned by PR school district stakeholders Monday at the Osage Community Center.

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Educational Consultant Lynn Dyer with ICS Consulting adds a participant's response to a collage of sticky notes during a long-range planning listening session for the Park Rapids School District Monday at the Osage Community Center.

About 18 constituents of the Park Rapids School District shared their perspective in a second community stakeholder listening session regarding long-range plans for school facilities.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad opened the meeting Monday at the Osage Community Center by introducing educational consultants Lynn Dyer and Glenn Chiodo and project development specialist Jason Splett with ICS Consulting.

Dyer said the district hired ICS to facilitate long-term planning for school facilities, keyed to a strategic plan the school board put together this spring.

“There is no specific project that they’ve identified,” he said. “At this point, all we’re here to do is to gather information that may give them feedback from the community, that could lead to something down the road.”

He stressed that any project coming out of this process will be the community’s project, based on their input, and for the benefit of students.

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“We take the information back and say, ‘Here it is,’” said Dyer, referring to the school board. “They make the decision, and they hopefully make the decision based on the input they received from the community, because then it becomes the community’s plan.”

Community members suggested 11 “brick and mortar” facility needs for the school district. Later, they voted with sticky dots to prioritize these suggestions, in the following order:

  1. Tennis courts, nine votes.

  2. Increased classroom space and community center, tied at seven.

  3. Technology super-center, vo-tech during high school and science center/STEM facility, six votes each.

  4. Gymnastics center and art center, five votes each.

  5. Weight room, four votes.

  6. Theater, three votes.

  7. Media center, one vote.

Participants also responded to questions about the school’s successes and challenges and where to go from here. Chiodo and Dyer collected their answers on sticky notes to be included in their “big book” report to the school board.
Responses often mentioned tennis, and included:

  • Positive things happening in the district: School spirit; good music program; the beautiful new Century School; variety in educational choices and extracurricular activities; caring teachers; progressive thinking; good coaches and athletic director; college credits in high school; reading buddies for elementary students; gymnastics, football, tennis and other sports programs; secured entrances.

  • Challenges facing the district: Poor condition of tennis courts; bullying; lack of school counselors; keeping facilities updated; competition from other school facilities; classroom space running out; motivating kids to learn; teachers’ lack of diversity; losing classes like foreign languages; few National Merit Scholars; discipline; class sizes; inadequate gymnastics gym; not enough vo-tech programs; lack of parent involvement.

  • Headlines you’d like to see 10 years from now about the school district: 100 percent graduation rate, graduate success and further education; graduates accepted to Ivy League schools; tennis for all ages; tennis and academic scholarships abound; the most forward-thinking school system in the state; all students needs are met; state-of-the-art sports center; Panther gymnastics takes state championship; graduate turns pro; lowest substance abuse among teens in U.S.; more parent involvement; indoor tennis academy at 100 percent capacity; no bullying; teachers from around the state applying for PR School positions; special ed/adult fitness program flourishes.

  • How would you spend lottery winnings on the school: New or repaired tennis courts with outdoor bathrooms; academic scholarships; state-of-the-art sports facility; gymnastics gym; technology for students and adults; increased funding for special needs programs; more cooking, sewing and life-skills classes; indoor tennis, track and gymnastics facility; private science academy; late bus returns; more counselors for those in need; parent education on how to nurture and encourage their children; elementary academic achievement center.

  • Advice to the decision makers moving forward: Back to basics; treat people as you want to be treated; take the advice you asked and paid for; think about future needs and concerns of all age groups; reduce staff turnover and the student-teacher ratio; remember common sense; think progressively; think about the safety of tennis courts; don’t spend money you don’t have; always put students first; reward positive results; do something about the gymnastics facility; pray first; consider safety first.

  • How you would like the school district to communicate with you: Newspaper, including published meeting minutes; school district website; through well-rounded, respectful students; town hall meetings; Facebook; email blasts.

Dyer said ICS will report to the school board on Oct. 7 about its evaluation of the educational adequacy of school facilities. The results of their community listening sessions will be presented in December and should be available on the district’s website, parkrapids.k12.mn.us.

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Jason Splett, at right, a project development specialist with ICS, introduces himself to some 18 community stakeholders who participated in Monday's listening session.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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