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Eliminate Perham school extra-curricular activities?

By Louis Hoglund

"Total suicide" is how a Perham School Board member described a suggestion that the school cut all extracurricular activities.

A number of residents spoke August 19, on both sides of the school levy issue. The school board meeting was an informational session, in preparation for the Nov. 3 levy referendum that will ask voters for more school operating revenue.

Dead Lake resort owner Cheryl Harris was the first to speak during the public input portion of the meeting. She expressed her sympathies to the board and school administration for the difficult financial situation. "I don't envy your job at all," said Harris.

"But if you are truly concerned about education, all extracurricular activities should be cut" before raising taxes, said Harris. "That's why they are called 'extra.'"

Harris expressed her concern about the impact of higher taxes on fixed income retirees, and also on small businesses. Otter Tail County has lost 25 family resorts over the past 10 years, and among the reasons is the tax burden. Harris estimated that taxes at her Northern Lights Resort will go up $1,200 a year if the referendum passes.

"Extra curriculars are what keeps a lot of kids in school--if we didn't have them, we would lose students," said school board member Mike Hamann, who said it would be suicidal to drop sports and activities, because students would open enroll to other districts. "If all schools eliminated extra curriculars, that would be one thing."

Seventy percent of Perham students are involved in at least one extracurriclaractivity. Meanwhile, extracurriculars represent only 3 percent of the total school operating budget.

Cutting football, for example, to save money is not likely an option, but eliminating some activities is a strong possibility, said Superintendent Tamara Uselman, who illustrated some of the cuts that could come without more operating money.

Middle school baseball, golf, and softball could be cut. High school mock trial, one-act play and knowledge bowl are among activities that could be sacrificed over the next two to three years, said Uselman.

(Complete story in the August 27 Perham Enterprise Bulletin)