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5 things from Monday’s W-DC school board meeting

Deer Creek School nearly sold; the last day of school is not extended; student tech fees can be waived; graduation is near; and school logos get a refresh in this month's meeting.

Deer Creek School.png
The Deer Creek School continues to be a topic of discussion at the Wadena-Deer Creek School Board meetings. The title description continues to bring hiccups to the sale of the property.
Contributed / Otter Tail County GIS
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WADENA — Here are five things you should know from Wadena-Deer Creek's school board meeting on Monday, May 16.

  1. Deer Creek School sale nears closure

The journey towards selling the Deer Creek School is perhaps coming closer to closing.
The school board previously agreed to sell the property to a private party last summer, and that sale was to be final in January. Five months later, the board continues to work with Wadena realtor Craig Folkestad on closing the deal. Much of the headaches have involved the legal description of the property and a small area of the property that seems to have had an unknown past since the property description was drawn up back in 1929.

“It’s been a real ride,” Folkestad said as he updated the board during their regular meeting May 16.

Folkestad shared two options that the school district could pursue to close out the deal. One involved obtaining a quiet title, which could cost an estimated $10,000 - $12,000 while working with an attorney. The quiet title involves working with a lawyer to establish ownership of real estate when ownership is in question.

Another option, one less costly and one the board agreed to pursue, involved accepting the void in the title. In this instance, the board is allowing the deed to be imperfect of which there is little risk, they surmised. The district would be free of any risk after 10 years. They planned to include language that would further protect them from risk.

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Folkestad shared that the buyer was accepting of the void in the title opinion. He also hoped to move this along so the buyer could place finds for the property in escrow and begin work on some of the buildings. Folkestad repeatedly apologized for the amount of time it’s taken to complete the sale, to which the board was very understanding.
The board expects to take up action on this matter on June 6.
The W-DC school board next meets at 5:30 p.m., June 6, at the Deer Creek Community Center.

2. Last day of school unchanged
Students and staff can thank the school board for agreeing to not extend the number of contact days after the latest school cancellation on Friday, May 13, the day after severe weather caused power outages throughout the region. Because of that missed school day, Superintendent Lee Westrum said the board could either extend out the school year one more day, to Friday, June 3, or they could decide to not replace the missed day. Westrum said the students have had enough hours of contact, so it wasn’t necessary to add the day. Board members agreed that it’s unlikely the extra day would be very productive and no one wanted to be the one to make students wait any longer for summer vacation.
Westrum shared that the decision to close school was difficult at first as he didn’t have much for damage in his area. However after talking with authorities in the area, learning that power was an unknown, and discovering that the elementary had no water, it became an easy decision to not have school. Getting that message out to families was the tough part as the schools messaging service was out of order. Staff used multiple communications to try to reach families with the news of no school. Many families were dealing with a great deal of cleanup efforts, downed power lines and outages of their own.
Westrum said the storm brought to light some important issues that he hopes to address soon. The water issue at the school involved the fire suppression system and was thankfully repaired.

3. Come to graduation

The Wadena-Deer Creek graduation is set for 7 p.m., May 27, in the middle/high school gymnasium. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Principal Tyler Church shared that this “should be a normal graduation,” compared to the COVID years. Graduates will be practicing from 9-11 a.m. that morning to prepare for the big night.

4. Student tech fee no more

In an effort to save families money and help bring the school district more money in one fell swoop, the board approved waiving the $50 student tech fee normally sought from every student IF the student’s family fills out a free and reduced lunch application. These are forms that many families do not fill out and unfortunately, they are used to determine how much funding comes to the school districts. Board member Barb Tumberg stated that it’s important to know that even if a family does not qualify, they should fill out the form. Board member Ryan Damlo expressed frustration that so much funding for the school is dependent on a form that families may or may not choose to fill out.

The school plans to communicate this waiver option further this summer leading up to the deadline for free and reduced lunch applications.

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5. Marketing the school district
The marketing committee is looking to finalize refining the school logos by completing guidelines for the school logos and marketing materials. Administrative assistant Katie Polman said she’s hopeful they will have the work complete for the All-School Reunion.

In other actions, the board:

  • Heard that students were registering for summer school and summer rec, which are scheduled to begin Monday, June 6, just three days after the last day of school.
  • Approved hires of Bailey Warzecka, Preschool Paraprofessional and retirements/resignations for: John Scheiding, custodian; and Luke Wurdock, JH Math Teacher.
  • Heard that 22 seniors will receive scholarships totaling around $70,000 during an upcoming banquet.
He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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