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Park Rapids Schools move forward with building program

The voter-approved, $51.65 million bonding project will begin to take concrete shape in coming weeks as budget numbers are locked down and the school board calls for bids.

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Members of the Park Rapids School Board shake hands Dec. 6, 2021 with girls swim team members who competed at state this year. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

The Park Rapids School Board on Dec. 6 approved a resolution to move forward with the school improvement project funded by a $51.65 million bond that voters approved on Nov. 2.

The resolution also authorizes Superintendent Lance Bagstad and school board chair Sherry Safratowich to sign a contract with ICS, Inc. to consult on the project’s design and construction management.

The referendum provides funding for a new bus garage on school district property; secured entrances, renovations to accommodate preschool classes, a new pickup and drop-off loop and new playgrounds at Century School; a secured entrance at the high school; new classrooms for grades 7-9; a new high school gymnasium, kitchen and locker rooms, plus added space for agriculture and art classes, a theater scene shop, the Alternative Living Center and district offices; updates for the high school’s existing classrooms, auditorium and media center, as well as restroom renovations.

In addition to the bonded project, the resolution also mentions other school improvements to be funded by other sources, such as $1.7 million in long-term facilities maintenance money to repair the high school’s roof and exterior wall panels; $1.7 million in federal ESSER funds to replace the high school’s HVAC system and rebuild the tennis courts on Helten Ave.; and $1 million in capital facility bonds to replace the boiler-chiller plants at Century School.

Business manager Kent Fritze verified later that the resolution only acted upon the referendum-funded projects.

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Board member Clayton Hoyt made the motion to approve the resolution, and it passed unanimously, absent board member Jay Pike.

Bagstad reported that the district is working with the Minneapolis-based firm of JLG Architects to design the improvements, and they have been meeting with members of school staff to discuss educational programming for the new facilities.

“We’re going through the schematics of what we want our kids to do and learn, and how we’re going to get there,” said Bagstad.

He added that Ehlers, Inc. financial advisers will be at the school board’s Dec. 20 Truth in Taxation meeting to discuss revised budgets and the bonding process, and there will be a resolution calling for bids on the project.

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Heard board member Dennis Dodge report that the Minnesota Department of Education is again promoting its updated social studies curriculum. He urged those concerned about the revised content to provide feedback by calling the MDE and visiting raiseourstandardsMN.com (www.americanexperiment.org/standards).

  • Recognized girls swim team members who competed at state.

  • Hired Courtney Thoma as a long-term substitute certified occupational therapy assistant, Cindy Leach as a bus driver, and Josh Cook and Bryan Hirt as middle school student council co-advisors.

  • Accepted the retirement of high school maintenance engineer Linda Quinn, effective Dec. 31, with regret and thanks for her 31 years of service to the school district.

  • Accepted the resignations of Jared Naeve as an assistant boys hockey coach and David Seelen as a custodian.

  • Renewed Kent Fritze’s contract as business manager for 2021-23.

  • Increased music teacher Louise Bass to 0.86-time.

  • Approved Krystal Murphy’s full-time teacher contract.

  • Increased substitute bus drivers’ pay to $50 per route.

  • Reaffirmed that admission to school activities is free for students, staff and senior citizens.

  • Approved a purchase-of-service to provide Braille services to the special education program.

  • Approved a resolution supporting the district’s application to the Minnesota State High School League Foundation.

  • Acknowledged donations totaling $2,090, including $1,740 from Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association, to various classrooms and a scholarship fund.

  • Heard public comment by school parent Nicole Guida about children and the laws that affect them in education.

The school board also planned its meeting dates around public holidays in 2022. The meeting regularly scheduled for:

  • Jan. 17, 2022 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) was rescheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 18.

  • Feb. 21, 2022 (Presidents’ Day) was moved to 6 p.m. Feb. 22.

  • April 18, 2022 (Easter Monday, a non-school day) was moved to 6 p.m. April 19.

The school board’s next meeting, including a truth-in-taxation hearing, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20 at the Frank White Education Center.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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