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Pelican Rapids voters defeat referendum for school upgrades

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PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. – Voters here defeated a referendum Tuesday night that would have allowed the school district to use $18.5 million in bonds to upgrade the high school and other buildings.

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Superintendent Deborah Wanek said by 9:30 p.m., the majority of precincts showed a clear defeat of the proposition with 1,262, or 59 percent, voting “no” and only 845, or 40 percent, voting for the bond.

Wanek said three precincts had not yet reported, but the areas were small and would not make a difference in the outcome.

“We’re going to have to step back, re-evaluate and see what’s next,” Wanek said.

The school district hoped to improve the Pelican Rapids High School, which is now a maze of 11 different levels. The original building was built in 1928 and additions were made in 1953, 1962, 1965, 1972 and 1987.

Upgrades would have included replacing the fine arts auditorium; renovating the gym, locker room and activities spaces; adding a security entrance; updating the student commons and cafeteria; relocating the loading dock; adding a new student drop-off; and renovations of science labs and classrooms.

At the junior high school, classrooms were to be renovated and modernized, with deferred maintenance of windows, flooring and roofs; and lighting improved at existing outdoor facilities.

A plan to build a new high school was handily defeated in a 2005 vote. However, the district did pass a $600 per pupil referendum in 2011.

Wanek said she had heard mixed signals from residents on the vote.

“In my desk, you never know. I hear a lot of concerns and complaints. It’s a very difficult thing to judge,” Wanek said.

Pelican Rapids has about 470 students in grades 7-12.

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