The Osakis Elementary School playgrounds will look much different come this fall. New equipment that will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act will soon be installed and ready to go when the 2020-21 school year starts.

The playground project, at a cost of more than $152,000, includes one preschool playground for ages 2-5 and another for students in grades K-6, along with a small shed for recreational equipment, according to Shad Schmidt, elementary principal.

Schmidt’s recommendation for the playgrounds and shed were approved at the Monday, June 15, school board meeting. He started the process of researching playground equipment during the 2018-19 school year and is working with the company Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground and GameTime, which is the manufacturer.

Schmidt said a new playground was needed because the previous equipment was not ADA compliant.

“I wanted to be sure we had elements to the playground for all students, especially sensory pieces for those students that would benefit from them,” he said. “Also, this will be a great way to welcome students back to school in the fall.”

Schmidt said the design of the playground will be recognized as a national demonstration site, which will feature a QR code people can scan with their phones to give the school district real-time information and data about the use of the equipment.

Once the new playground equipment is in place, Schmidt said there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open it up.

“I am excited for this opportunity for our students,” said Schmidt. “It is going to be a great playground we’ll all be proud of.”

As for the old equipment, Schmidt said there are a couple of elements that will be kept and that the school district will try to sell the rest.

Conservative budget

Superintendent Randy Bergquist is pleased with the proposed budget that was approved at the Monday night meeting.

“I’m happy we are projecting positive revenue over expenses,” he said, noting that although there are always concerns over funding, the Osakis School District has a healthy fund balance.

When preparing the budget for the upcoming school year, Bergquist said he was conservative when it comes to the number of students coming back.

Instead of basing the budget on the exact number of students, Bergquist said he based it off of 12-15 students less. The reason, he said, is because with COVID-19 and distance learning, the district isn’t exactly sure how many students will be returning this fall.

Bergquist said some parents and students liked distance learning and may continue to use this homeschooling model even if school resumes to normal.

The Minnesota Department of Education, as of yet, hasn’t given the district much guidance as to what school will look like this fall, said Bergquist, which is another reason for the conservative budget.

“We are hoping all the kids come back, but parents will make that decision and do what is best for their kids,” he said.

The Osakis School District has a tradition of running a more conservative budget, said Bergquist, which he credits to former Superintendent John Perterka. Bergquist said it was ingrained in him and has maintained that same approach, which he said, is less burdensome on taxpayers.

Bergquist also gave a lot of credit to having a healthy fund balance to the staff, community and of course, the school board.

Here’s a look at the total revenues and expenditures, along with the total fund balance for the past five years. This year’s numbers are proposed, while the others are actual numbers:

Grand total revenue

  • 2016-17: $10.395 million

  • 2017-18: $10.388 million

  • 2018-19: $16.412 million

  • 2019-20: $10.928 million

  • 2020-21: $11.451 million

Grand total expenditures

  • 2016-17: $10.776 million

  • 2017-18: $10.449 million

  • 2018-19: $16.336 million

  • 2019-20: $10.647 million

  • 2020-21: $11.370 million

Total fund balance

  • 2016-17: $4.656 million

  • 2017-18: $4.635 million

  • 2018-19: $4.660 million

  • 2019-20: $5.130 million

  • 2020-21: $5.226 million

In other action

The school board approved the following other items:

  • Hiring of Jennifer Kalstrom, high school secretary.

  • Contract with Pat Kalpin for athletic director, summer recreation coordinator and community education coordinator for the 2020-21 school year.

  • Resignation of Dan Beste as junior varsity football coach.

  • Agreement with Lakes Country Service Cooperative for the 2020-21 school year.

  • Resolution for membership in the Minnesota State High School League.

  • Donations from PMMI Foundation in the amount of $5,075.88; James and Sharon Fearing in the amount of $100; and football student activity account in the amount of $800.