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Recreation and roads: Bemidji School Board to meet twice this week to discuss facilities, legislative priorities

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Bethany Wesley

BEMIDJI — The Bemidji School Board is holding two special meetings this week.

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The first, set for Wednesday, will continue the discussion of a study to look into the needs and wants for local indoor and outdoor recreation needs.

The second meeting, set for Friday, will involve a meeting with local legislators to discuss the school district’s legislative priorities.

Recreation

The School Board first will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the district offices at 502 Minnesota Ave. NW to discuss an “Ideation Process with Northern Minnesota Solutions Group to identify current and future indoor/outdoor recreational needs,” according to the agenda.

In January, the School Board was unanimous as it voted to contract with Northern Minnesota Solutions Group — a partnership of Kraus-Anderson, Larson Engineering and Johnson Controls — to develop a master facilities plan for recreation space, both indoor and outdoor.

 “It has become obvious that the school district is a huge partner in indoor and outdoor recreational facilities,” Superintendent Jim Hess said during a Jan. 8 board meeting. “We probably carry the lion’s share of the responsibility for providing the space.”

As the district reached out to youth and community groups to gauge use of existing facilities and discuss future needs, Hess said at the time it became clear current facilities are not keeping up with demand for practice and competition space.

The School Board has not to date approved any funding for new recreation space and has stated that any plans, if approved, would likely be completed in phases.

Legislative priorities

The board next will convene at 3 p.m. Friday, again at district offices, to meet with legislators to discuss priorities for the forthcoming legislative session

Likely, one of their top issues again will be the need to address the funding formula for transportation.

In December 2012, when the district set priorities for the 2013 session, the transportation funding formula was again its top concern.

The Bemidji district was under-funded for student transportation by more than $514,000 in 2011, while the Minneapolis and St. Paul districts made a combined profit of more than $12 million, according to a memorandum from the Minnesota Department of Education.

The Bemidji district covers an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, which results in higher-than-average transportation costs.

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