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School Board looks to list Deer Lake property: Former elementary school could go on market for $500,000

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji School Board is expected Monday to consider an agreement to list Deer Lake Elementary for sale.

The agenda for the regular meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at district headquarters at 502 Minnesota Ave. NW, includes discussion of a potential agreement with Lake-N-Woods Realty to list Deer Lake school.

Terms would be a one-year contract for the school to be listed at $500,000 with a 5 percent commission, according to the agenda packet.

Deer Lake Elementary, located in Liberty Township, was closed following a vote in May 2001.

Bemidji Area Schools is preparing to launch a campaign to raise support of a two-question referendum this fall seeking voter approval to fund the construction and operation of a new fourth- and fifth-grade school.

As the School Board has discussed the potential for such a referendum this year, its members have said that the district should resolve the Deer Lake issue. A criticism in the failed 2011 referendum, which sought funds for a new K-5 school, was that the district already had one such school sitting vacant in Deer Lake.

But reopening Deer Lake would not solve the district's space needs, leaders have argued.

It would cost about $500,000 to reopen the facility and it also is only a single-section elementary -- meaning it can host one first-grade class, one second-grade class, etc. -- for a total of about 170 students.

The district's growing enrollment -- since 2007 its K-5 enrollment has grown by 358 students and an increase of another 326 K-5 students is predicted over the next five years -- indicates that it needs space for many more students than that, leaders have said.

Additionally, Deer Lake is located outside the areas where enrollments are growing, meaning the district's busing costs to get students to and from Deer Lake would also be higher than appropriate for any gain in classroom space.

Referendum wording

Also at the meeting, School Board members are expected to adopt the wording of the referendum questions.

At a work session two weeks ago, board members discussed how best to word the questions to clearly communicate to voters that both questions will need to pass to allow for the new school to be built.

Because the school is seeking money to not only construct a new facility but to also operate the new fourth- and fifth-grade school, legally, the district is required to have two separate questions.