Residents narrowly rejected a ballot question Tuesday, April 13 that would have allowed the Park Rapids Area Schools to raise $59.8 million in bonds to improve school facilities.
In unofficial totals released by the school district, there were 1,001 votes in favor of approval and 1,046 against.
Broken down between the three polling places, there were 901 “yes” and 820 “no” votes in Park Rapids, 84 “yes” and 160 “no” in Osage and 16 “yes” and 66 “no” in Lake George.
According to a press release from the district, the school board proposed the referendum to address aging infrastructure at the high school, modernize classroom spaces and bolster collaborative and career programming options for students.
A similar proposal in the form of two ballot questions also failed by a narrow margin in the November 2020 election.
“While we are disappointed in the results, we respect the decision of the voters and we thank everyone who made their voices heard,” said Superintendent Lance Bagstad. “Our district has always provided students a high-quality education, and this election won’t change that.”
Under the referendum plan, the Frank White Education Center would have been demolished to make way for a new high school wing for grades 7-9, and the Alternative Learning Center would move to the north end of the high school with the art and career and technical education programs.
Classrooms in the existing part of the high school would have been reconfigured to meet state standards. Meanwhile, Century School would have been renovated to accommodate early childhood programs as well as grades K-6.
Other improvements would have included replacing school tennis courts, building a bus garage on school grounds, adding a parking area and pickup-dropoff lane west of Century School, securing building entrances, enhancing the facilities’ accessibility to the disabled and various roof and mechanical upgrades.
“There is still much work that can be done,” said school board chair Sherry Safratowich. “We’re committed to finding ways to expand the opportunities available to our students at all grade levels.”
District officials plan to assess the election results carefully, then re-engage the community for new ideas and guidance on how to address building issues in the future, Bagstad said.