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Tensions run high at Lake Park - Audubon meeting

Emotions continued to run high at Monday's fourth informational meeting on the future of the Lake Park-Audubon School District.

In fact, discussion became so heated at one point that LP-A School Board member Rick Ellsworth walked out of the meeting.

But that was during the first half of the evening. About halfway into the three-hour meeting, the group of roughly 63 people broke into small groups to discuss potential solutions for the district's dilemma, and then presented their findings to the group at large.

This appeared to have the intended effect, as each of the 11 groups' presentations were greeted with polite applause -- in contrast to the earlier discussion, which was frequently greeted by jeers from the audience.

"It always happens when you sit down one-on-one with your neighbor ... all of a sudden, the climate changes," said Board Chair Vicky Grondahl after the meeting. "There's a face and a reason behind the opinion. That leads to discussion -- and discussion is how this is going to be resolved."

"There was a lot of good information presented," said Superintendent Dale Hogie. "There were a couple of new ideas -- or ideas that we hadn't given great consideration in the past.

"I thought it was a good evening for us, with a lot of good interaction between people with various opinions."

The majority consensus of those in attendance seemed to be that the proposal put forth in the May 8 referendum -- to build a new high school in Lake Park, and renovate the elementary school in Audubon -- made the most sense of any of the solutions discussed thus far.

However, there was at least one new idea put forth for discussion: To keep the "good parts" of the buildings in Lake Park and Audubon, and build a third school that was "add-on-able" as the need was shown to be there.

This would make use of the existing buildings in each community, but also address the needs of new technology and serve to attract new residents to the community.

Other possibilities that were brought forth during the various group presentations were:

• Explore private funding options to offset the potential tax impact of a new school;

• If the high school is replaced, explore how the usable space in the existing building might be marketed;

• Explore possible intergenerational uses for school facilities;

• Look at all the possible ramifications of dissolving the district, good and bad;

• Do an independent survey of both existing buildings to determine what can feasibly repaired, and what can't.

Hogie said the school board would look at the proposals turned in by each of the 11 groups and try to arrive at a solution that would have a greater chance of success with voters.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454