COMMENTARY: Envisioning the future of Park Rapids Area Schools

Lance Bagstad

For the past year, school board members and district staff have been engaged in conversations with community members, developing a strategic plan for the Park Rapids Area School District.

The discussion has been exciting, and it has been energizing to talk about our current accomplishments and what the future entails for ISD 309. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to come to school board meetings, participate in community input or go to the district’s web site to learn about the strategic plan.

When we began the strategic planning process, the school district leadership team agreed to a specific set of goals. We wanted to:

  • improve student achievement;

  • improve student support processes and resources;

  • recruit, hire and retain the highest quality professionals;

  • improve the quality of our school buildings/learning environment;

  • develop multifaceted community communications and seek out/build community partnerships; and

  • provide local residents with high value for their investment.

On April 1, the school board selected ICS Consulting, a local firm, as our partner to help lead us through a comprehensive process to move forward fulfilling the goals of the strategic plan.
The initial phase of the process will involve assessments of the challenges facing Park Rapids Area Schools. We will be working with ICS to conduct an analysis of our district’s long-term demographics, the condition of our current facilities and an assessment of how well the facilities serve our overall educational programming and mission.

In September, we will be engaging our community stakeholders in listening sessions. The sessions will help us to understand how our facilities, infrastructure and educational process can better support our district and stakeholders both today and in the future. There are two community listening sessions scheduled.


  • Park Rapids community listening session at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Century Middle School work room.

  • Osage community listening session at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Osage Community Center.

These meetings are an opportunity for community members to participate and share ideas and opinions regarding the future of Park Rapids Area Schools. Utilizing this same process, we have already met with our internal staff to gain their input.
The outcome of the assessments and listening sessions will be detailed information to assist the district in developing a long-range facility plan. These plans are a critical piece of school district operations for a few reasons:

  • Facility infrastructure grows old and inefficient. For awhile, a district can maintain older equipment and facilities, but funding for this maintenance comes from the same source as the funds we put in the classroom. Much like a home or any business, eventually investments need to be made in modernizing schools.

  • Facilities need to evolve. Teachers teach differently now, and providing the right kind of educational programing and spaces is important for the educational achievement of students. For example, even ten years ago, it would have been impossible to predict the importance of integrating new technology into the classroom and learning environments.

  • New challenges emerge. When today’s 12th-grade students entered kindergarten, building security and energy efficiency was an afterthought. Today, both those items are critical issues in the operation of our schools.

The final phase of the process will be an evaluation of options. There will be several ways to address our facilities and educational programming challenges. Our school board will need to determine what is in the best interest of our students, staff, community and taxpayers. The school board will share these options with the public and ask for your input before any decision is made.
Your involvement is important as we plan for the future of our district. We hope you will take the time to share your input and assist the district in envisioning the future. In the meantime, I am always interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to call me at 237-6501 or email me at

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