July 18, 2024

New elementary school could be on fall ballot

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With the rejection of the ‘one site’ option last fall, which would have closed both elementary schools and built an addition onto the Secondary School in Barrett to house elementary students, the West Central Area school board is working on a new facilities plan they can bring before voters this coming fall. At last Wednesday’s early morning school board meeting, Superintendent Dale Hogie outlined developments from an early June meeting between administration, school staff, school board members, and Zerr Berg Architects, a Fargo firm that has been hired to help with the planning.

Hogie said the plan now is to build a new South Elementary School, in either Kensington or Hoffman, that would house Kindergarten through 5th grade students. Hogie has scouted possible sites in both towns, and many landowners have been contacted by phone. Letters of inquiry are also planned.

The current plan for North is to demolish the west classroom wing, kitchen, and lunchroom, and save the 1967 portion of the building containing classrooms, lockers, and the gym. A new addition would then be built that could contain the kitchen, lunchroom, and classrooms.

In addition, all, or most of the improvements for the Secondary School that were on the ballot last fall, would also be considered.

The board agreed to meet on July 7 to further refine things, work on dollar amounts, tax impacts, and plan how to get information out to the public. For instance, they must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both the Kensington site and Hoffman site for the South elementary. To help with this decision, Hogie had prepared maps of student locations in regard to Kensington and Hoffman and the transportation implications, as well as any possible business impacts.



Community Ed Director Naomi Moerke reported that Summer Rec ball programs have full teams, except for Pee Wee baseball. Melaine Belsheim has been hired to supervise the North ball program and Mikaylah Stark the South program.

She reported that Pacesetter basketball camp for grades 7-12 will be at North, July 19,20,21, Volleyball Camp will be at North, July 26, 28 for grades 7-12, swimming lessons, by the Fergus Falls YMCA will be held at Fairhaven Beach and Elk Lake Beach, July 12-22, except on Fridays, football camp will be held July 14-15 with two sessions for different grades, wrestling camp will be August, 2-3 for grades PreK-6. Golf Camp at Tipsinah Mounds will be August 2,3,and 4. Pacesetter Basketball Camp for grades entering 1-6 will be August 2,3, and 4 at the Secondary School gym.

For more information, to register, or for ball schedules, go to the school website.

Elementary Principal Natalie Prasch reported on class size projections for the 2021-22 school year for Kindergarten through 4th grade. It showed 38 students in Kindergarten at North and 26 at South, 34 1st graders at North and 23 at South, 42 2nd graders at North and 24 at South, 32 3rd graders at North and 27 at South, and 29 4th graders at North with 21 at South.

“As a reminder, these numbers often change over the summer,” said Prasch.

Activities Director Jake Foslien reported that the Secondary School’s gym floor, which was damaged when the batting cage fell on it, will be repaired in the month of July.

He reported that the fishing league has 15 students fishing each week in both the Heart O Lakes League and our own WCA League.

The Trap Team had 27 shooters this spring.

“Most activities are scheduled for next year,” he reported, “and will be live to the public after July 1.”

Foslien also reported that WCA will join the West Central Conference starting with the spring sports season of 2022.

Secondary Principal Susan Knutson reported that 62 seniors graduated on June 4 in a wonderfully “normal” ceremony.

She reported that students have returned from the annual Boundary Waters canoe trip and the Washington, DC trip will depart on June 25.

Other business

The board approved the resignation of John Van Kempen as Cross Country coach, approved the retirement of Cindy Mau as Elementary School Counselor, and Emily Rachels as elementary school paraprofessional

The board approved the hiring of Evan Norenberg as full-time custodian for the summer, and Gabriel Olson as Step 1 technology support.

The board approved a membership agreement with Lakes Country Service Cooperative and the bakery bid for 2021-22 by BIMBO bakery.

The board also approved a quote from Musco Lighting of $6,600 for new lights for the football field, and 2021-22 membership in the Minnesota State High School League.

The board also approved a revision in the 2021 budget and the preliminary 2022 budget as presented by Business Manager Diane Powers.

In a public comment portion of the school board meeting, the board allows two minutes for members of the public to address them with concerns. Wednesday, Sven Swanson, Kensington, used his allotted time to complain that the school, in particular the Social Studies and English departments, were teaching anti-Americanism.

Swanson used as an example a book 11th grade Literature students were assigned to read, The Things They Carried.

The Things They Carried is a collection of linked short stories by American novelist Tim O’Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers fighting on the ground in the Vietnam War. His third book about the war, it is based upon his experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division.

Swanson claimed the book alludes to the deterioration that materialism and imperialism have brought to our country. He said he got a complete list of English reading assignments for grades 7-12 and there were no “patriotic” books on the list.

“Why does the school encourage this?” Swanson asked, wondering if it was because the school wants  to teach anti-Americanism. Swanson said the O’Brien book tells kids it is wrong to be patriotic, and he would prefer books that teach the evils of authoratism and Marxism be read, such as Animal Farm, Brave New World, or 1984.

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