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Stakeholders give input on school facilities during public meeting

Members of the public, along with Wadena-Deer Creek students and staff, gave input to a consulting firm advising the school board on future facility improvements during a Jan. 16 meeting.

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Lynn Dyer, education consultant for ICS, reads anonymous suggestions from area residents during a public information meeting concerning Wadena-Deer Creek school facilities. The meeting was held in the high school commons on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.
Michael Achterling / Wadena Pioneer Journal
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WADENA — Wadena-Deer Creek school district facility upgrades and renovations could be on the horizon after a public open forum in the high school commons on Monday.

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Area residents make Post-it note suggestions during a public information meeting concerning Wadena-Deer Creek school facilities. The meeting was held in the high school commons on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.
Michael Achterling / Wadena Pioneer Journal
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Lori Christensen, account executive for ICS, speaks to area residents during a public information meeting concerning Wadena-Deer Creek school facilities. The meeting was held in the high school commons on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.
Michael Achterling / Wadena Pioneer Journal

The Jan. 16 discussion was conducted by the school district's consulting firm, ICS, which also met separately with district administrators and faculty on Monday. The consulting firm plans to seek student comments from the high school's upperclassmen on Tuesday and also plans to hold an online Zoom meeting on Wednesday at noon for those who haven't had to opportunity to share their input with the consultants . Meeting ID: 844 0851 1801.

"We want people to have a chance to give their input and share any ideas they might have regarding our facilities," said Lee Westrum, superintendent for Wadena-Deer Creek public schools. "We've identified some areas that we think need maybe some attention, but we, at this point, are trying to gather data from our stakeholders."

He added, while the educational facilities at both the high school and elementary schools have been improved over the last decade, some of the outside athletic facilities are beginning to become aged.

"Our football grandstand and the press box, and the grandstands for baseball and softball," said Westrum. "We've also known that (the high school) was short on shop space for the CTE programs ... it's just not big enough."

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Lee Westrum, superintendent for Wadena-Deer Creek public schools, speaks to area residents during a public information meeting concerning Wadena-Deer Creek school facilities. The meeting was held in the high school commons on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.
Michael Achterling / Wadena Pioneer Journal

Westrum also said he wanted the public's unvarnished opinion about what they want to see from their school facilities, so he introduced the 21 meeting attendees to the ICS consultants and then left the meeting following the introductions.

The meeting was all about gathering input across different stakeholder groups using the same basic questions concerning Wadena-Deer Creek facilities, said Lynn Dyer, an educational consultant for ICS.

"By asking the same questions, for the most part, to all of our stakeholders, that way we get the answers to the same questions from a variety of different opinions or groups," said Dyer. He added the conversations don't have to revolve around sports facilities and that they wanted honest opinions about how the stakeholders see the area's educational facilities, as a whole.

"We're just asking open-ended questions that we want people's opinions," he said. "This is about whatever they want to tell us about."

During the meeting, the attendees were asked to respond with anonymous Post-it notes to a series of questions, which included:

  • What are the great things happening at Wadena-Deer Creek schools?
  • What are the challenges facing Wadena-Deer Creek schools?
  • What are the greatest needs of the career and technology educational programs at Wadena-Deer Creek schools?
  • What advice would you give to decision-makers as they go through planning school facilities projects?
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Glenn Chiodo, education consultant for ICS, speaks during a public information meeting concerning Wadena-Deer Creek school facilities. The meeting was held in the high school commons on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023.
Michael Achterling / Wadena Pioneer Journal

The Post-it notes were read aloud by the mediators and created a colorful brainstorming cloud of sticky paper as each question was discussed.

Attendees were also asked directly what kind of facility upgrades and renovations they would like to see in the Wadena-Deer Creek school district. The community group came up with 19 different suggestions, which ranged from parking lot and drop-off improvements to fixing the bathrooms and grandstands at the sports facilities.

"Everything we're doing is trying to come up with responses that help the (school board) identify some commonality that helps guide their decisions," said Dyer.

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Following the meeting, Ron Noon, Wadena County Commissioner District 1, said the meeting was very informative and the group came up with a lot of responses for the consultants to include in their report.

"It was very well organized," said Noon. "But we all get the tax statement, and ... we want to, but I'm not in favor of the Cadillac, I like a nice Buick."

The ICS consultants said they plan to compile their responses from the different stakeholders over the next month and present their findings in a final report to the Wadena-Deer Creek School Board in February.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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